Hey Angels and Alphas,
Research has shown us time and time again that a low-carbohydrate diet is not really a recommended, long-term approach if you want to improve your performance in the gym and outside of it.
This is because carbohydrates are the body’s primary, and most efficient, energy source when it’s dealing with periods of high-intensity physical effort.
Without the necessary carbohydrates, your body is forced to look elsewhere to find energy. This might be great in some situations… and terrible in others. Beyond performance, many carbohydrates are actually nutrient-rich foods that supply the body with fiber, folate, B complex vitamins, and other vital micronutrients that we all require to maintain good overall health and high metabolism.
While pretty much all sports nutritionists and fitness professionals agree that we have to keep carbs in our diet, there are certain times in which reducing the intake of this micronutrient can actually be beneficial in the short term.
Let’s explore these situations.
IF YOU’RE IN A PERIOD OF REDUCED EXERCISE
If you’re an active individual, your carbohydrate needs will be predominantly determined by your weight and your daily volume of training.
Those doing more should naturally consume more, with the golden rule of thumb varying from 3 to 12 grams per kilogram of body weight a day. So, if you’re a low-volume athlete, if you’re taking days off, or you’re in the offseason, it is absolutely essential that you lower your carbohydrate intake for a time. And plan accordingly.
You might even find it helpful to cycle your carbohydrate intakes day to day if you’re a person whose training volume differs largely depending on what day of the week it is.
Here’s an example: if you’re a weekend warrior and you like doing hard workouts on the weekends, you might want to lower your intake of carb-rich foods during your actual workweek and then try to ramp up your intake to provide the energy necessary for those long weekend high-intensity sessions.
IF YOU’RE FACING GASTRIC DISTRESS
One of the most common mistakes in the nutritional world is when people consume additional carbohydrates in the form of simple sugars, thinking that this will help them improve their training performance in the short term.
While this is actually a proven strategy, it can cause something called gut rot. Gut rot is a form of gastrointestinal distress where a lack of high-quality nutrients and fiber will cause the gut to be stripped of its healthy bacteria.
This will lead to indigestion, bloating, and might contribute to poor overall health. If you are experiencing this type of issue, you should cut back on carbs for a while, maybe up to 2-3 weeks, allowing your gut to recover. If this is the case, you should consume more nutrient-rich foods and eat fewer carbohydrates from starchy veggies.
IF YOU’RE IN A PERIOD OF FAT ADAPTATION
As we know, there’s a concept known as low glucose training, which is a body fueling practice basically centered around the concept of teaching your body to utilize fat for energy instead of carbs. Theoretically, even someone who is very lean has limitless supplies of stored fat, which can technically provide longer-lasting energy than carbohydrates. But in order for this to happen, carbohydrates should not be present for immediate use.
While this approach is surely less efficient, the potential that this strategy has for endurance athletes cannot be overlooked. Some athletes need to maintain their physical activity throughout prolonged stretches in which carbohydrates can become unavailable or just simply intolerable.
To reap all the benefits of fat as an energy store, an athlete must complete a rigorous workout session that’s fueled by carbohydrates, then avoid any recovery carbohydrates, and then complete another workout a few hours later while in a state of depletion.
The second workout might suffer in performance; however, it forces the body to perform without its preferred energy source.
The bottom line is…
There are specific situations in which an active individual or athlete might need to cut back on their carb intake in the short term in order to achieve long term success. Overall, cutting carbs out of your diet completely is never a good idea and will only backfire on your fitness and health goals. But in those situations where cutting carbs is the better option, you should realize this on time and take the necessary steps to progressively slow down your intake of carbs until you achieve the results you want.
The bottom line is, understand the role that carbohydrates play in the body and you’ll have a much better time utilizing them adequately. Never cut them out completely, but in the moments when you need to cut back on carbs, don’t hesitate.