You Can’t Train a Bad Diet!: Carbohydrates

When I check the blogs stats for hits I’m expecting this one to go through the roof- Why? Well carbohydrate consumption in relation to weight loss, gain and sporting performance is one of those topics that seems at the moment to be more contentious than religion.

Carbohydrate is in effect fuel for energy and therefore movement. Carbohydrate can be manufactured from from fat in the body and protein meaning it is not necessarily essential for maintaining life. However, remove carbs completely from your diet and be prepared to see your energy levels plumit as well as your mood!

Carbohydrates include breads, pasta, rice etc. these are common staples of a westernised diet. Vegetables are also carbohydrates as in turn are sweets, chocolate and anything that’s sugar. It’s also a major consituent in lots of dairy products.

As a lot of people are uneducated about their diet a lot of the time they don’t understand that avoiding bread and replacing it with cous-cous or a different type of bread is really a match for match calorie wise. Quality of what you consume is important, true, however total calorie consumption is lost in the message of trying to eat healthier and more natural products.

Carbohydrates are commonly refered to inline with the glycemic index with wholemeal products existing at the low glycemic end and sugary sweets existing as high glycemic foods. What does this highlight? Well high glycemic foods are broken down more quickly and therefore make energy available- in turn often they will elevate insulin levels and over a long period of time this has implications for conditions such as diabetes.

On the other hand high glycemic foods are useful for restocking the muscles and aiding and assisting with recovery post exercise and training. In essence the carbohydrates are being used for the right reason- movement and recovery from training in opposition to just sitting in your blood stream where ultimatley they may be utilised in fat storage.

This highlights that carbohydrate amount should be dictated by activity and also means the time that you eat them can be important as well. Carbohydrates therefore before and during activity can aid exercise intensity and as discussed aid recovery post exercise.

How much is too much though? At the bottom end low carbohydrate diets are considered to be those below 100g daily of carbohydrates. This is good for fat loss but pretty much kills any type of exercise intensity as well as making you pretty grumpy. As a general rule I tend to use a rough scale for carbohydrate consumption. 3-4g per kg of bodyweight daily for those who are performing light activity. 5-6g per kg for those moderatly active or training regularly. For those involved in endurance sports up to 10g/kg bodyweight may be necessary- though these guys generally get away with diets that would make the Milky Bar Kid blush!

Often it will depend upon people’s activity- it sort of highlights how undirectional the labellings on food packets are and also how they can potentially misinform, for example someone training 3 times a week gets the same recomendations as someone not training at all. Also these recomendations will also advise a carbohydrate diet of up to 60% of your daily calorie intake so depending on what you are trying to acheive it could scupper your goals be it weight loss or improved performance.

Published by ianmellis

Ian Mellis MSc. CSCS is the co-founder of Results FAST ( in Ware, Hertfordshire. Specialising in athletic development, physique improvement and injury rehabilitation he provides personal training, strength and conditioning and nutrition coaching for motivated exercisers and those looking to make a long term change to their health, fitness and performance.

3 thoughts on “You Can’t Train a Bad Diet!: Carbohydrates

  1. I have reached my weight loss results just by low carb diet, so I could be called as a big fan of this diet. I know that normally I should get more than 40 grams (or even 20) carbs a day, but as I wanted to lose weight, I did ate just those 20-40 grams a day.

    Of course, there are also the bad sides … I am talking about the tiredness what I get as an extra to this diet … but as I wanted to lose weight I did deal with this minus …

    If you are talking about carbohydrate consumption. 3-4g per kg then I understand that what I was doing is not nothing good for my body, but as it helped me it hard to stop.

  2. True, 3-4 g/kg is a recomendation I use for generally active people. Dropping below 100g a day is a low carb diet- therefore there are a number of issues with this and I find that even those with good adherence will be able to go 4 to 6 weeks before returning carbs to a higher level. Also exercise intensity and volume is completely reduced in this time so I don’t think there is a necessity to practice very low carb diets ongoing.

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