The Truth About Carbohydrates


Carbohydrates have long been maligned by self proclaimed fitness gurus and nutritionists. For years they’ve been misunderstood and ostracized by popular, but short lived, fad diets that perpetuated the theory that carbs will make you fat and if you want to lose weight, you must abstain from them at all costs and use protein and fats as your sources of energy.

The reality is nothing could be further from the truth. Protein is the least effective source of energy and carbs don’t make one fat categorically, but rather too much of any macro nutrient will contribute to weight gain. While fat is the second best source of fuel amongst the macro nutrients, too much fat in the diet, even the good fats that come from salmon, avocado, yams, etc can add a spare tire or a pair of saddlebags on you considering that fats pack a whopping 9 calories per gram compared to carbs and proteins which weigh in at a mere 4 calories per gram. Too much protein will be excreted as much as possible and the rest stored as body fat. Furthermore, it has been shown many times that too much protein can also harm your kidneys.

As long as I’ve been an Austin personal trainer, I’ve been preaching two messages to those who are looking to get healthier, lose weight, gain muscle, or all of the above. Those 2 things are balance and personal responsibility. Only clients that are in need of a very specific result, such as an actor for a movie role, or an athlete for a competition will be exempt from the balance part. Since they train with a different objective, and usually within a very specific time period such as the off season, for example, they have considerably less room for anything other than a very rigid diet.

Aside from obvious considerations such as your health, your history, your age, etc, your nutrition plan will greatly be dependent upon your goals. If you’re looking to be considerably stronger, you would have more carbs, albeit the proper ones at the proper times, than an actor who is needing to lose 40 lbs for a role in 3 – 4 months. This isn’t because carbs will make the actor fat who’s trying to lose weight, or it will make the client looking for serious strength gains fat, it’s because carbs are the single best source or fuel for our bodies but simultaneously, they promote water retention. As I’ve written elsewhere on this site, carbs are broken down in our bodies and turned into glycogen which we store for energy. For every gram of glycogen we store, weigh retain roughly 2.7 grams of water as the kidneys retain sodium in response to the glycogen. The client looking to lean out will still eat good carbs at certain intervals in a prescribed amount for fuel and digestion, but the strength seeking client needs more fuel and will likely burn more calories as well with that type of training depending upon their individual metabolic rates, if course.

There are 2 types of carbohydrates and they are rated as to their quality on a scale known as the glycemic index. There are simple carbs and there are complex carbs. Simple carbs have been refined and processed while complex carbs have not and therefore retain much more of their grain. Examples of simple carbs would be white sugar, white bread, white rice, etc. These products have been processed and bleached. Examples of complex carbs would be brown rice, whole wheat bread, couscous, whole wheat pasta, etc. The major difference between the two that is evidenced on the glycemic index, is that complex carbs burn more slowly and evenly in the body as we digest them. Simple carbs not only burn at a much faster rate than complex carbs, but they also spike our blood sugar levels and give a quick dash of energy, but that is short lived because as the blood sugar levels rise, our pancreas will secrete the hormone insulin to keep the sugar levels in check. When this occurs, we feel what we call an energy crash.

The good analogy for understanding the differences between carbs would be to think of cooking a steak on a grill. The fire is the fuel, of course, but consider which would be more effective to cook with. The simple carb analogy would be if we dumped a bunch of lighter fluid onto the lit charcoals, we’d see a flash fire that though impressive looking, would extinguish quickly and be rather useless to cook an entire steak with. The complex carb analogy would be that if we were to put a little bit of fluid on the coals and let them burn slowly, over time we’d have a nice cooking fire that would be way more useful.

It has been recommended that carbs comprise 45% to 65% of your diet. That number will vary greatly based upon your individual needs, your metabolic rate, your age, activity level, etc. A lot of professional athletes rely on a carb heavy diet in the few days leading up to their competition in order to store the most amount of glycogen in the muscles as possible. Whatever the case may be, fuel up without over fueling, and put the premium grade into your gas tank whenever possible.

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My name is Andy Bruchey and I founded Complete Fitness Design over 20 years ago. I specialize in weight loss/gain, including the addition of quality, lean muscle mass, corrective flexibility, post injury rehabilitation, nutrition and sports specific training.
The Truth About Carbohydrates
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The Truth About Carbohydrates
Carbs are often maligned as a macronutrient, but in this article, longtime Austin personal trainer Andy Bruchey divulges the truth about carbohydrates.
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Andy Bruchey- Complete Fitness Design
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Complete Fitness Design
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3100 W Slaughter Ln Austin, TX 78748

About Andy

My name is Andy Bruchey and I am a longtime Austin personal trainer having founded Complete Fitness Design over 20 years ago. I specialize in weight loss/gain, including the addition of quality, lean muscle mass, corrective flexibility, post injury rehabilitation, nutrition, and sports specific training for professionals. Contact me today to see how I can help you!
3100 W Slaughter Ln Austin , Texas 78748 512-484-2270