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How to make carbs your friend.

Posted on May 6, 2012 in Nutrition Blogs | by

Since I’ve worked in the fitness industry, I’ve also hung around with a lot of people over the years that have competed in fitness modeling or bodybuilding competitions… these are people whose JOB it is to get single-digit bodyfat lean for competition.

I’ve noticed 2 things that almost all of these physique competitors have in common…

1. Almost all of them eat a lot of protein.

2. Almost all of them use carbohydrate “manipulation” as one of the main nutrition factors that they focus on to get seriously lean.  Carb manipulation means cycling carbs strategically on a daily or weekly basis.

First of all, carbs are not necessarily the enemy all the time. They can actually be your best fat burning friends – IF you use them strategically.

And, if you really want to control fat loss once and for all, it’s crucial for you to understand the pros and cons of carb intake. Trust me, it can be a love-hate relationship.

The Pros of Carbs

1.    Carbs are muscle sparing. In other words, they preserve and prevent the breakdown of lean metabolism-boosting muscle tissue.

2.    They provide energy to the brain and the body.

3.    They help spark our metabolism and keep it elevated to prevent metabolic slowdown and keep hormones in check.

4.    They stimulate insulin, which leads to a very anabolic/muscle building environment (this is kind of a catch 22 as you’ll read in a second).

The Cons of Carbs

1.    Carbs spike insulin levels and elevate blood sugar. It’s almost impossible to burn body fat in the presence of high insulin levels. (hence – the catch 22 above)

2.    Consuming too many carbs over lengthy periods of time can lead to a lot of fat spillover, which leads to excess fat storage. This can lean to obesity, heart disease, diabetes, etc.  Fat “spillover” means when liver and muscle glycogen stores are full, your body needs to store excess carbs as fat on the body.

3.    Carbs (especially processed carbs) are the most abused nutrient from both a health and fat loss perspective.

4.    Excess carb intake creates a lot of water retention, which leads to a soft look so it makes you look and feel bloated.

5.    Processed carbs hide nasty fillers and chemicals that can potentially lead to severe health challenges. We call these obesity additives.

6.    When if comes to grain-based carbs such as cereals, breads, pasta, etc, you also have the issue of “antinutrients” in grains.  Antinutrients are substances found in some of the highest concentrations in grain-based foods and prevent some mineral and vitamin absorption by the body, possibly causing deficiencies of nutrients if you eat grain-based foods at too many meals.  Anti-nutrients and gluten in grains can also cause digestive system inflammation.

Now you can see why people think you can just cut out carbs and fat loss should be easy. But there’s obviously a lot more to it because carbs when timed properly can also maintain important hormones and keep your metabolism happy and burning fat.

Additionally, extremely low-carb plans only work for 5 to 7 days at a time before your thyroid and leptin levels react negatively to slow metabolic rate and suppress fat burning hormones.

Now you can see the crux of carb intake. It can be a double-edged sword.

That’s why you gotta get “sneaky” and cycle your carb intake to maximize both your health and long term fat loss.  That’s where something called Carb “Macro-Patterning” comes in handy.