FUELIXIR’S FAST GUIDE TO THE CARB DEBATE
WHAT’S ALL THE FUSS ABOUT?
They’re getting a bad rap as of late with low carb diets becoming all the rage in the popular media. You might have seen 2016 Tour de France winner Chris Froome tweeting pictures of his eggs & avocado breakfast. Read on to get acquainted with carbs with some quick facts and knowledge about this important macronutrient.
DROP SOME SCIENCE
Carbs is short for CARBOHYDRATES and are made up of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms. There are three main forms…monosaccharides, disaccharides, & polysaccharides. Monosaccharides are the simplest form, directly absorbed into your body, quickly getting into the bloodstream to provide immediate energy. Two of the most common forms of monosaccharides that you’re probably familiar with are glucose (found in sports drinks, gels, etc.) and fructose (found in fruits). Carbs are stored in your body, predominantly in the MUSCLE and LIVER, as GLYCOGEN.
A LITTLE HISTORY LESSON
Back in the 1920s it was suggested that low blood glucose during an endurance event led to fatigue, and that feeding carbs during and eating a high carb diet produced better finish times. This drove recommendations to eat high carb diets, carb load, and eat carbs during exercise to maintain blood glucose and sustain performance. This eventually led to the proliferation of big name companies promoting use of their drinks and products to benefit exercise performance. Recently, in the past decade or so, these carbohydrate recommendations are being challenged leading to much debate within the endurance sport community and the formation of two opposing camps; low carb vs. high carb.
SO WHAT’S THE DEBATE?
Well, this is very complex. But here’s what you need to know. Glycogen, remember that’s the storage form of carbs in your body, is limited. So one argument for going “low carb” or “training low”, at least from a performance perspective, is that it enhances your body’s ability to use fat as a fuel (which is in plentiful supply) so you can spare those limited stores of glycogen for when you really need them. Think sprint finish or final climb.
SHOULD I TRAIN LOW?
Well, this isn’t an easy question to answer. It really depends on the person and also what your goals are. Do you run, bike, or swim to lose weight? If so, incorporating some train low strategies might be beneficial as it may help you burn more body fat! If your goals are more performance based, then it gets more complicated as the jury is still out on whether train low strategies do in fact enhance performance.
WHICH CAMP ARE YOU IN?
At the end of the day it’s not really about picking a side. Remember, at high intensities CARBS ARE KING. And last time we checked, high intensity efforts are pretty important for a lot of races and events, not to mention those weekend sufferfests for you cyclists out there? Yes there might be some efficacy in training low and “teaching” your body to burn fat, and this is beginning to be recognized as a good, albeit often misused, strategy. But don’t forget you also need to teach your body to use carbs at those higher intensities.
DROP THE MIC
Not eating enough carbohydrates can interfere with cortisol testosterone ratios, tamper with a women’s hormone balance, lead to muscle loss, and hinder muscle growth. How many carbs you eat depends on your personal…
GOALS – fat loss, maintenance, performance
GENES – body type, medical status, allergies
TYPE OF CARBS – natural vs. processed
ACTIVITY – training 3 days per week vs. twice every day!
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