What about Carbs?

There seems to be a lot of controversy about eating carbs - they make you fat! But are they really the problem? Here’s my experience and view about carbohydrates: When I started Crossfit (about 6 years ago) the trend was cut out all carbs so no sugar, rice, pasta, bread, quinoa…Basically eat meat and vegetables! This gave me incredibly fast results. I was training 5-6 times a week doing the mainline classes and feeling great. Lost about 5 kg of fat in the first 3 months and I started to see the abs I always wanted. As I got better in Crossfit and wanted to compete I didn’t change anything in my diet and kept on eating low carbs. (I had sweet potato with my dinner) Example of a days food: Breakfast: 2-3 eggs, handful of spinach, 3-4 cherry tomatoes, 1/2 avocado Lunch: 300- 400g steak, 1/2 broccoli, 150- 200g mushrooms, 2 handfuls of raw spinach Dinner : 300-400g minced meat, 1 medium size sweet potato, 3 paprika one of each color, 1/2 courgette Snack: Fruit and nuts You can see I was consuming large amounts of meat for lunch and dinner and very little carbs. My abs were there but inside I was feeling like shit! I had no energy and most days ended with a headache. On top of that I started to get real health issues. My gut was so badly inflamed that I had to run to the toilet easily 10-15 times a day. At this point I was working out at least 2x day for 5 days with 1 active recovery day and 1 full rest day. So I made the decision to work with a nutritionist. We added carbs back in like rice, white and sweet potato, quinoa, oats, gluten free pasta and fruits. Oats for breakfast. And  100g of one of the above carb sources added to each of my meals. Cut down on the meat to a point where I was only consuming 120-150g fish per meal. The inflammation in my gut went down and I had more energy during the day. Skin improved as well. What I want you to understand is the more active you are the more carbs you need. Meaning; if you are doing +5 sessions of Crossfit/week or any other high intensity activity you want to increase your carb intake to the point where you feel energised during the day and still be able to lose fat. For the next week I want you to pay attention to the following biofeedback markers;
  • Hunger: are you feeling hungry?
  • Energy: feeling tired or not?
  • Sleep: troubles falling or staying asleep?
  • Workouts: are you still improving and setting new PR’s?
  • Mood: are you easily irritated?
  • Weight: have you been stuck on a weight for a period of time and can’t get it to change no matter how much you cut in carbs or increase the volume of training?
  • Caffeine: are you consuming large amounts of coffee to keep your energy levels up?
  • Body temperature: feeling cold all the time? (probably harder to measure when summer is here for the Dubai folks)
Maybe you are under eating and need to add some carbs to your diet. The carbohydrates we consume throughout the day are stored in liver and skeletal muscles in the form of glycogen. When performing high intensity training our body will use these stored glycogen to produce energy. Liver can store approximately 100g of glycogen and our muscles 240-400+g of glycogen. Can I get the carbs from fruits only? NO, the problem with fruit is fructose (fruit sugar) which gets stored in the liver and not in the muscles! So once the liver storage are full it will get stored as fat. That's why it’s important to eat other sources of starches like rice, potato, oats… which will fuel your muscles and give you the energy to train harder and perform better! As always make the right choices when it comes to carbs and you will see amazing results. Not only in energy levels but also in body composition.   By: Carmen Bosmans, Performance Coach