A couple of months ago, I very begrudgingly decided I needed to count my macros again.
Macros? Macronutrients. I needed to track my protein, carbohydrate, and fat intake. (Check out more of what I am talking about HERE).
If you know me, you know I loathe this task. Some people love it, I absolutely do not. It involves measuring all of your food and logging it. You need to take into account whether something is cooked or raw. What it was cooked in. And after all of this work, it is still an inexact science. You can still end up being off by a bit.
BUT, as much as I don’t like it, it can be an incredibly useful tool. It can give you a much clearer picture of what you’re putting into your body, and 99 times out of 100, you realize that things were not what you thought they were.
So I was eyeball deep in competition prep and was experimenting and I discovered something ghastly. I was eating more protein in a day than carbohydrates.
Why was that a problem? Carbohydrates are vital to energy (among a lot of other important stuff we’ll get to in a minute). So while I was getting enough protein and fats and eating tons of fruits and vegetables I wasn’t getting enough. And that was a really bad thing considering what my training was looking like in a day.
And look, I’ll be the first to say that while I know the importance of carbohydrates through my nutrition certification, I had convinced myself that I was getting enough through fruits and vegetables because I just wasn’t one of those people that would ever be able to handle high amounts of starchy carbs well (rice, potatoes, bread).
So I bit the bullet and tracked my macros for a big with a focus on adding more carbs and committed to doing an InBody scan at the beginning and then after a month to gauge.
And let’s just say, the proof is in the pudding. Or in this case, the oats, bread, jasmine rice, sweet potatoes, and rice cakes.
In 4 weeks my weight remained relatively unchanged (I lost .2 pounds) but I gained 1.1 pounds of muscle and WAIT FOR IT… lost 1.4 percent body fat. Taking me to the leanest AND most muscular I have EVER been. And it didn’t hurt that I had more energy and my workouts were on another level.
Years of reading about diets like Atkins have made us carb-shy, because they seemed to work so well. It’s because they restrict an entire food group, people end up eating at a caloric deficit, so they lose pounds. But they also lose water and glucose. And when you cut it too much it can lead to poor concentration (your brain needs glucose), changes in your mood (low carbs may mean less happy hormones), reduced physical performance, hormonal complications, and low fiber intake. All of this means you can be living in a perpetual state of feeling like you got hit by a bus. A big bus full of football players. Linemen. With their pads on.
So while I am not advocating you go order a large pizza tonight and don’t share, I want you to know that carbs aren’t the devil. You can have the pizza and the pasta and the bread, just in appropriate portions. You NEED carbohydrates, just like you need the other 2 macronutrients in portions to live your healthiest life. It’s about portions and making sure that the ones you eat the majority of the time are minimally processed.
To sum up: you need carbs.
Your body and brain need them to be healthy and happy. You need them just as much as you need protein and fat. You need A LOT of them if you are active. Most should be minimally processed, but splurging on pizza sometimes won’t kill you or ruin all of your progress. The only way you should be concerned about how to cut carbs, is with what knife and what shape. Or if you’ll leave the crust on your sandwich.
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