Let’s face it: Carbs get a bad rap.
Contrary to what some diets might have you believe, your body needs carbohydrates for proper function and improved results. For one, carbohydrates give you the energy to power through your workout and, as a result, make strength and muscle gains. Moreover, low-carb diets deplete glycogen stores. Once glycogen stores are emptied, your body will burn protein – including protein from muscle tissue – to meet its energy needs. That means you’ll actually lose muscle mass!
Because low-carb diets are so widespread, most athletes don’t get their required carbohydrate intake. For active individuals, experts recommend 6 to 7 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of bodyweight per day. At 71 kilos or 158 pounds, my daily carbohydrate intake should be upwards of 450 grams.
Does this mean I can eat as much white bread and pasta as I want? No.
The real story on carbohydrates is that you should select natural, unrefined, complex carbohydrates. These are the so-called “good carbs” and can be found in such foods as brown rice, oats, barley, buckwheat, apricots, oranges, prunes, plums, broccoli, spinach, turnip greens, lettuce, lentils, kidney beans, black beans, soy beans, soy milk, any many others. In other words, good carbs can be found in whole grain foods, fruits, vegetables and legumes – many of which are high in fiber.
Refined carbohydrates, like those found in pastries, sugary drinks and other highly processed foods, are not a friend of smaller waistlines. With the exception of your post-workout recovery drink (when your body needs a quick shot of carbohydrates), these are to be avoided.
The bottom line: The war against carbs has no winners; carbohydrates are your friend. Just be smart about the type of carbohydrates that you consume.