5 Reasons to Ditch “Low Carb”
We’ve all been there.
As a coach or an athlete who understands basic human nutrition, and having a conversation with someone less informed, we might hear…
Do you ever eat carbs?
Damn, you must avoid carbs like the plague?
I would love to look like you, but I love carbs too much…
Its quite paradoxical actually, and the look on their faces when I reply that on average, I eat around 500-600 grams of carbohydrates a day. Sometimes more depending on the day, or training stimulus.
Avoiding carbs (especially as a natural lifter) is likely hindering your progress. Let’s look at some basic reasons as to why, and how carbohydrates can aid in fat loss, muscle building, and overall health and longevity.
(I could rant on this for days, and I do on @codyboomboom’s podcast, so if you want to hear me ramble more go check that out), but I’m going to keep this to 5 key points.
Thyroid Function: The thyroid can be looked at as the primary regulator of metabolism.
TH regulates metabolism primarily through actions in the brain, white fat, brown fat, skeletal muscle, liver, and pancreas.
When we reduce carbohydrate intake for prolonged periods, we start to see declining T3 levels (the active form of thyroid).
This is because to convert T3, from its precursor T4, glucose is responsible.
Along with this, the thyroid works in harmony with our CNS, and as an athlete (physique, strength, it doesn’t matter) we MUST have an optimal functioning central nervous system to drive performance and output.
Adrenal Hormones: This becomes especially important while dieting as being in a prolonged caloric deficit (coupled with intense training/ cardio) will initiate rises in adrenal hormones such as increased cortisol, epinephrine, adrenaline and more.
Over time this will cause us to become CNS dominant leading to slowed, or impaired digestion, reduced nutrient partitioning and utilization, as well as resulting in more of a net catabolic environment, especially around training.
Carbs are your best friend when it comes to suppressing these hormones, ESPECIALLY around training.
Hydration and Fullness: Ever notice how your paleo buddies always look flat and deflated?
I want to quote Dr. Edmund Burke, a legend in nutrition sciences.
“Research has shown that carbohydrate and sodium work together to increase water absorption in the intestinal wall. Carbohydrate’s component glucose molecules stimulate sodium absorption, and sodium, in turn, is necessary for glucose absorption. When these two substances are absorbed by the intestines, they tend to pull water with them, thus facilitating the absorption of water from the intestines into the bloodstream.”
Reducing carb intake will reduce the amount of cellular hydration in your system.
This will lead to you looking flat, and reduced nutrient partitioning, which affects recovery.
Along with that, reducing carbs down to a level to incur ketosis (sub 50-80g/ day depending on the individual), you will create a dieretic effect.
We know that decreases of hydration in just 2-3% ranges SEVERELY impact performance and cardiovascular health.
Insulin: Not to get into the weeds here, but insulin is crucial in so many ways to losing fat/ building muscle, and overall health and longevity.
By suppressing insulin levels via carb restriction we’ll see reduced nutrient partitioning to the muscles, along with reduced amounts of muscle protein synthesis.
This is because when cortisol is high (carbs blunt the cortisol response), it interferes with leucines’ ability to activate important muscle-building pathways like mTOR.
Vitamin and Mineral Balance: Anytime we eliminate an entire food group, we’re going to reduce the ability to inject crucial micro’s, minerals, and fiber.
This will wreak havoc on your system in so many ways, and this really doesn’t need to be explained much further.
Carbs are your friend…
Unless of course you simply do better on a low carb diet, for reasons of adherence, and sustainability, or otherwise correcting certain metabolic disorders.
If that’s the case, and you’re ok with the trade-offs mentioned, I fully support any strategy that works well for you.
Now let’s get back to work.