Why You Need Carbs In Your Diet

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Why You Need Carbs In Your Diet

Our greatest motivation in life comes from not knowing the future.
— Thomas Frey

Carbohydrate, more commonly known as ‘carbs’ is one of 3 macronutrients that make up your diet.

Like protein, it provides you with 4 calories per gram.

They’re often thought to be responsible for making you fat and get a bad rep in many fitness circles. However, they’re an important part of your diet for numerous reasons;

  • They’re your body’s primary fuel source for everyday life
  • They help increase gym performance
  • They aid in the proper function of your brain and other vital organs
  • They’re important for intestinal health and digestion
  • They help to lower your risk of certain diseases

Carbs are split into 2 main categories based on how they impact your body;

  1. Simple
  2. Complex

Today’s post will explore carbs and why you need them in your diet, particularly when strength training.

How Is Carbohydrate Processed By The Body?

Carbohydrate can be metabolised by the body very quickly and for this reason is the preferred source of energy.

When you eat carbohydrates, they get broken down into glucose, a form in which your body can use them for energy. Any glucose not used is converted into glycogen and stored in your muscles and liver for future use.

Your liver can store approximately 100g of glycogen which is used to maintain blood glucose levels between meals. Whereas, your muscles can typically store 400 – 500g of glycogen which is used to provide movement.

Different Types Of Carbohydrate

As touched upon earlier in this article carbs are split into 2 main categories based on how they impact your body;

  1. Simple
  2. Complex

Simple Carbohydrates 

These carbs are sugars that provide you with a rapid source of energy but often leave you feeling hungry again soon after. Examples include;

  • Baked goods
  • Cookies
  • Cereals

Complex Carbohydrates 

These carbs tend to fill you up for longer and are generally consider healthier as they contain more vitamins, minerals and fibre than their simple counterparts. Examples include;

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Pulses
  • Wholemeal Foods

Fibre

Fibre plays several roles in the diet;

  • It makes us feel fuller
  • Aids digestion
  • Prevent constipation
  • Is associated with lower disease risk

Fibre is commonly found in vegetables and starchy foods. The recommended daily amount for adults in 30g+.

How Much Carbohydrate Do You Need?

There is a lot of controversy surrounding carbohydrate intake, particularly in relation to fat intake BUT when it comes to intense resistance training you can’t go wrong with a moderate to high carbohydrate intake.

Let me show you why.

Research (6) shows that glycogen stored in your muscles is the primary fuel source of moderate to intense exercise. Add to this research (7) that shows a sufficient carbohydrate intake that keeps your muscle and liver glycogen stores full can improve workout performance.

Not only this but research (8, 9) shows that when compared a low carbohydrate intake (approx. 220 g per day) against a high carbohydrate intake (approx. 350 g per day) resulted in more strength lost, slower recovery and lower levels of protein synthesis.

Regardless of whether you’re trying to lose fat and preserve muscle mass or gain muscle and minimise fat gain, you can begin to see why a moderate to high carbohydrate intake is beneficial for you if you’re strength training regularly.

How much carbohydrate is enough?

As the answer will vary depending on your goal, starting weight and protein intake the best way to calculate your carbohydrate intake is to first allocate your protein and fat intake and then use all remaining calories from your daily allowance for carbs.

Where Can You Get Carbohydrate From?

Carbohydrate can be found in a huge amount of different food items including but not limited to;

  • Rice
  • Bread
  • Vegetables
  • Fruit
  • Potatoes
  • Cereals

How To Calculate Your Carbohydrate Intake

Using the same 170lb male (from here & here) as an example let’s look at how you’d work out your daily carb intake.

Fat Loss

Carbs make up the remainder of your daily calories. To find out what this is you need to minus your protein & fat calories from your total.

2,040 – (680 + 612) = 714 calories

To work out what this in grams we divide it by 4, which is the number of calories per gram of carbs.

714 x 4 = 178 grams

Muscle Building

Carbs make up the remainder of your daily calories. To find out what this is you need to minus your protein & fat calories from your total.

2,720 – (544 + 816*) = 1,360 calories     *in this example I’ve calculated a 30% fat intake

To work out what this in grams we divide it by 4, which is the number of calories per gram of carbs.

1,360 x 4 = 340 grams

For a full guide on how to calculate your daily calories and all macronutrients to lose fat or build muscle, download my FREE diet eGuide here.

Takeaway Point

Carbohydrates offer 4 calories per gram and are a significant part of a varied and healthy diet.

They’re particularly important if you’re performing regular strength training.

They help to;

  • They’re your body’s primary fuel source for everyday life
  • They help increase gym performance
  • They aid in the proper function of your brain and other vital organs
  • They’re important for intestinal health and digestion
  • They help to lower your risk of certain diseases

The research backed recommended for daily intake when strength training is;

  • Allocate all remaining calories to carbs after setting your protein and fat intake

 
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