They can be confusing, but are necessary. Cutting them from your diet completely is all the rage right now, although they’re the #1 thing we all crave. What am I talking about? CARBS.
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So many people are confused about carbs, but the truth behind the myth is somewhere in the middle. Carbs are neither good nor bad. In fact, used appropriately, carbs can actually expedite fitness results. The key is ensuring you’re consuming the right carb sources at the right times and in the right amounts.
Toward that end, here are 7 of my top carb commandments reflected in all of my clients’ fitness plans – abiding by these will kickstart your progress like nothing else!
1. Eat 1 to 1.5 grams of bodyweight per day.
Skimping on carbs can cause you to lose muscle, which will in turn decrease your metabolism and make it more challenge to burn fat. The average person – keyword there being “average”! – should always strive to consume about 1 to 1.5 grams of healthy carbs per bodyweight per day. Depending on your goal, you may need a little less or a little more.
2. Choose complex carbs for most meals.
Eating slow-burning carbs like brown rice, fiber-filled veggies, oats, sweet potatoes, and whole grains can help stave off hunger and keep blood sugar levels steady so you don’t have those crazy energy highs and lows. The exception to the complex carbs rule is your post-workout meal, where it’s occasionally okay to have a simple carb like rice cakes or fruit.
3. Skip carbs before cardio for extreme fat loss.
Cardio burns both fat and carbs, so the fewer carbs you have in your system the more your body will be resorting to fat stores to fuel the workout. Taking some BCAA’s or a small scoop of whey before your cardio, however, can actually help kickstart fat loss more than training on a purely empty stomach.
4. Increase carbs on cheat days.
Consuming more carbs on cheat days ramps up leptin and thyroid hormones, both of which tend to fall when you keep your carb intake low for a sustained period of time. Be sure not to overdo it, however – one cheat meal is sufficient!
5. Taper carbs as the day goes on.
Carbs are most needed early in the day, given that they represent your body’s primary fuel source. Cutting carbs as the day progresses decreases the chances that your body will store it as fat. (Exceptions apply if you’re training later in the day, in which case you’ll need a post-workout carb boost.)
6. Be wary of lurking carbs.
“Lurking carbs” are the excess carbohydrates you’ll find in almost any food. For example, nuts, beans, seeds, yogurt, and avocado are all things that people think of as falling into the protein or fat category, but they also contain a fair amount of carbs. Those extra grams of carbs aren’t freebies, and they add up fast. Be sure you’re counting them toward your macro needs.
7. Eat veggies instead of fruits.
People often question why they don’t see many fruits in my plans. The answer? While fruits do contain plenty of healthy vitamins and minerals, they also contain a fair amount of sugar which makes them a simple carb. Pound for pound, veggies contain more micronutrients and fewer carbs per serving. For example, 1 cup of broccoli contains about 6 grams of carbs while 1 cup of berries contains about 21 grams of carbs – more than triple the volume.