Macros Part III: Carbs aren’t the Devil.

CARBS

August 19th, 2015: 1300 hours

I’ve been on something of a hiatus for approximately two months. This is due to a change in my philosophy of fitness after doing some research. As a result of this research, my wife and I have undertaken an experiment, and I did not want to post until I had some tangible results of the experiment. Well I have some great results and we are still going with this philosophy after the changes we’ve seen.

If you have been watching fitness trends for any substantial length of time, you have noticed that carbohydrates have become the scapegoat for poor fitness and body composition. On some levels, this is a true notion. People living sedentary lifestyles do not need a lot of carbs for fuel — as I’ve discussed previously, the body prefers carbs as fuel for high intensity activity. People that sit at a desk all day, work out for an hour, and then go home and watch Netflix before going to bed, do not need the same number of carbs as a professional athlete, bike delivery worker, or even a plumber. Carbs are still needed around the workout, but otherwise not so much.

For the sedentary person, a high level of carbs is likely to contribute to an expanding waistline and decrease in stamina throughout the day. Two reasons exist for this. First, carbs are used quickly by the body. Actually, carbs are divided into two categories of “slow” and “fast”, but we will get into that. It brings us to the second reason: most people with sedentary lifestyles tend to use fast carbs (read: sugar) as fuel.

I’ve been there, so I understand. Which sounds more appetizing, a pizza or a sweet potato? Pizza. Duh. But I’m hopefully going to change your opinion on that by the end of this post; especially because I’m going to tell you to keep the Oreos in the cupboard and the ice cream in the freezer.

Before I continue, I suggest anyone who hasn’t read Macros Part II, go back and do so. I explained why LEOs need to treat their body like athletes. If you are living a sedentary lifestyle, you should consider looking at a Paleo diet. I’ll let you google that. This blog and especially this post, is for those of us who get up and move and work out like fiends in order to be able to perform at the highest level whenever necessary.

With that out of the way, my prior research before this experiment was based around starving oneself. Both calorie and carbohydrate recommendations for active persons was incredibly low. I checked into a program based around upping nutrients and calories in order to fuel your workouts and lifestyle. My wife and I started the program and the results have been eye-opening. Previously, we had been on a paleo-type diet with some slow carbs mixed into the equation. We did lean out some and we did see some marginal gains in performance (read: heavier weights and faster run times). But then we stumbled across some literature that suggested that we were actually screwing up our metabolism. It told us to increase calories and carbs dramatically. We took the advice roughly one week before I posted Macros Part II and this is what it looks like for me currently.

Previous:

  • Calories – approximately 2000 with cheat days in the 3000s
  • Protein – approximately 200g
  • Fats – approximately 100g
  • Carbs – approximately 100g
  • Deadlift – all-time PR of 405lbs
  • Bench – all-time PR of 230lbs x 2 reps
  • Hang Power Clean – all-time PR of 205lbs

Currently:

  • Calories – approximately 3000 on rest days and 3600-4000 on workout days (and still trying to increase!)
  • Protein – approximately 240-250g
  • Fats – approximately 110-125g depending on activity in the day
  • Carbs – approximately 300g on rest days and 370-400 on workout days
  • Deadlift – just did 340lbs x 10 reps yesterday (calculates to 450lb 1RM)
  • Bench – three days ago did 230lbs x 10 reps
  • Hang Power Clean – three days ago did 200lbs x 10 reps
  • 12lbs lighter and 2.5% body fat lost.

My wife has also seen similar success. We purchased and use FitBits every day. They are, of course, imperfect, but they do show you a lot of useful information. The most useful information is calories burned. You’d be surprised how many calories you actually burn in a day. On a rest day, I burn about 4000 calories. On a workout day, I can often eclipse 5000 if I focus on hitting 10,000 steps. I need to eat close to my TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure) on workout days in order to perform as high as possible. As you can see, I have a lot of improvement to make.

FEAST

So how does a person eat 4000+ calories and get leaner? Workouts, types of food, and timing of food. I focus the majority of carbs around workouts and dinner time. I eat slow carbs throughout the day and pre-workout; fast carbs are eaten post-workout and around dinner when I’m most depleted. This means that foods like Oreos have a place in my diet. They aren’t every day, nor in massive amounts, but I can eat them without guilt or worry.

I referred throughout this post to slow and fast carbs. Slow carbs are complex-carbohydrates. They take longer for the body to break down and make great pre-workout carbs and throughout the day carbs. Examples are sweet potatoes, brown rice, and many vegetables. Google is your friend here. Fast carbs are simple-carbohydrates. They are quickly broken down and used for fuel. The problem comes when they aren’t immediately burned. Fast carbs that aren’t used right away, are converted into energy stores for later use (read: body fat). Sugar is the most widely-eaten fast carb. Foods where the majority of the carb content is sugar (i.e. cookies, bread, most condiments) would be considered fast carbs.

The main point is that food is not “good” or “bad.” It has no moral or ethical value. Food is fuel for the body. There is a place in your life for pizza and ice cream. They just need to be used properly. Work out like a fiend, become more active, and fuel properly.

For the record: Eat to Perform is the program we are following and much of the literature paraphrased here is from them. Highly recommended if you want to train and be active like an athlete. Not recommended if you plan to be sedentary. Upcoming posts will focus on exercise and training.

Something fun for all to enjoy:

Workout of the Day: Rest day.

Quote of the Day: “If you always put limit on everything you do, physical or anything else. It will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.” – Bruce Lee.

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