Throughout your life, you've likely heard more than one lie about carbs. In fact, you've probably heard the same lies repeated over and over again. Now, it's time to bust those fictions and transform into facts: carbs aren't good for you, plain and simple. Not only that, they're not required whatsoever to lead a happy, healthy life (1). Without them, you'll reap a bevy of health benefits that are impossible to accomplish otherwise. Finally, it's time to discover the truth behind carbs, and why you've been lied to for such a long time.
Unmasking the Lies
Pre-Workout, You Need a High Amount of Carbs
You don't need carbohydrates to burn fat, you need fat. This is why a high-fat, low-carb diet provides the ideal intake you need to burn high fat levels, even while resting. You probably haven't heard that one in the media, however. Athletes, especially, are recommended to eat seven to ten grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight, which is about 3-4.5 grams per pound. If you consider how much that is, the facts are downright terrifying--not to mention, they're nearly impossible to actually consume. For a 150 lb person, this would involve downing somewhere between 38-56 slices of bread...gross. How is that even possible? Even on non-workout days, that same 150 lb person would have a recommended carb intake of 50-75%--that's a lot of bread, pasta, sugary drinks, cereal...the list could go on (2).
Unfortunately, this information is still recommended. Why? For athletes, it's a major sell of carb-heavy foods and drinks. While some people assume that sports drinks are good for you, they aren't. For example, just one bottle of Gatorade includes up to 35 grams of carbs. While that's too much for an entire day in reality, for athletes encouraged to carb-load, it's a major seller, and unfortunately, it does sell (3).
Athletes are also encouraged to maintain their glucose levels with those same sugar, carb-heavy sports drinks, being sold the lie that these provide much-needed vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. In reality, that's far from the truth (4). 30 grams of sugar and 35 grams of carbs can increase your risk for diabetes and death from heart attack, but can it maximize your workout routine? In reality, no. Many athletes believe these lies simply because they're so popular (5). When you're on the track racing others who are chugging Gatorade like it's water, it's difficult not to believe. Just because a person looks healthy, however, it doesn't mean that they are. Chug Gatorade like that one a daily basis, and you could be hitting the track with heart disease. Drinks like these are the largest source of sugar in the American diet, and as you can see from the evidence, that's far from a good thing (6). Don't believe the lies that advertising companies sell you. Read into the science, and you'll discover something entirely different (7).
The Importance of Fat
When you consider the truth about fat, it makes much more sense, no matter who you are (8). Even lean people have large amounts of fat waiting to burn, which is why their bodies can successfully get by on fat--no carbs required. The majority of people, in fact, have enough stored body fat to fuel their bodies for days on end. An average, 150 pound man with a muscular physique has a low level of body fat--just 8%, and even that muscular guy who acts as "workout goals" for so many people has 12 pounds of stored fat waiting to burn, around 42,000 calories ready to get to work, whether it's for resting at home or hitting the track.
There are no sports drinks or pasta-heavy meals needed there; he's good to go on fat alone. And if that guy is good to go, imagine everybody else. Not everyone is a muscular athlete, which means they carry even more fat ready to burn. Everyone has thousands of fat waiting to burn away, just sitting there on their bodies. Attempting to sell pasta, cereal, sports drinks, and "nutrition" bars to athletes is exactly that--just another sale. Don't waste your money buying into it; every body is a natural, fat burning machine.
Why Carbohydrates Aren't Required
Sure, even with all that stored fat, carbs can still improve performance, but that's a temporary, in-the-moment ordeal, and it's not going to last longer than the workout itself. Loading up on carbs causes lasting damage to your health, including high blood sugar levels, diabetes, heart and liver disease, increased risk of heart attack, joint, nerve, and brain inflammation, damage to the body, and much more. In just a few years, you might be facing so much pain that you're not able to exercise at all (9).
There is an ample assortment of delicious, high-carb, low-fat meals that anyone can enjoy, and that will promote lasting health benefits long past a single workout. From improved mental clarity to long-lasting, increased performance, weight loss, and a lower risk for many diseases, a keto-friendly diet does a lot for the body, both in the short and the long-term. You could be working out well into your 80's if you eat the right way. There's no denying the importance of diet, and no matter what your exercise level, increasing scientific evidence proves that (10). Don't buy into the lies; read the nutrition label and read into the truth behind the rumors. Your body is a natural, fat burning machine. Feed it well, and you'll maximize every workout, every rest, and every movement you make. Our bodies are made to be strong, naturally. And that means no carbs required.
(1) Eric C Westman. Is dietary carbohydrate essential for human nutrition? The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 75, Issue 5, 1 May 2002, Pages 951–953. Published May 1st, 2002.
(2) Stella Iacovides and Rebecca M. Meiring. The effect of a ketogenic diet versus a high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet on sleep, cognition, thyroid function, and cardiovascular health independent of weight loss: study protocol for a randomized controlled trial. Trials. 2018; 19: 62.Published online Jan. 23rd, 2018.
(3) Laura A. Schmidt, PhD, MSW, MPH. The Science on Sports Drinks. http://sugarscience.ucsf.edu. http://sugarscience.ucsf.edu/the-science-on-sports-drinks.html#.W6hCdGhKg2w. Accessed Sep. 23rd, 2018.
(4) Wilson, Jacob M. Lowery, Ryan P.1,; Roberts, et al. The Effects of Ketogenic Dieting on Body Composition, Strength, Power, and Hormonal Profiles in Resistance Training Males. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research: April 07, 2017 - Volume Publish Ahead of Print.
(5) Cristin E. Kearns, DDS, MBA, Laura A. Schmidt, PhD, MSW, MPH, and Stanton A. Glantz, PhD. Sugar Industry and Coronary Heart Disease ResearchA Historical Analysis of Internal Industry Documents. JAMA Intern Med. 2016 Nov 1; 176(11): 1680–1685. Article corrected Oct. 3rd, 2016.
(6) University of California San Francisco. SugarScience. Sugar-Sweetened BeveragesOver time, too much liquid sugar can lead to serious diseases. http://sugarscience.ucsf.edu. http://sugarscience.ucsf.edu/sugar-sweetened-beverages/#.W6hD92hKg2x. Accessed Sep. 23st, 2018.
(7) Harvard Medical School. The sweet danger of sugar. www.health.harvard.edu. https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/the-sweet-danger-of-sugar. Published: May, 2017. Accessed Sep. 23rd, 2018.
(8) Glen D. Lawrence. Dietary Fats and Health: Dietary Recommendations in the Context of Scientific Evidence. Advances in Nutrition, Volume 4, Issue 3, 1 May 2013, Pages 294–302, May 6th, 2013.
(9) Cleveland Clinic. How Carbohydrates Can Affect Your Heart Health. health.clevelandclinic.org. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/how-carbohydrates-can-affect-your-heart-health/. Accessed Sep. 23rd, 2018.
(10) Stella Iacovides and Rebecca M. Meiring. The effect of a ketogenic diet versus a high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet on sleep, cognition, thyroid function, and cardiovascular health independent of weight loss: study protocol for a randomized controlled trial. Trials. 2018; 19: 62.Published online Jan 23rd, 2018.