This question keeps coming up in regards to fat loss, so I figured I would write my thoughts here.
Lets start with a very brief description of the role of carbohydrate in the body – Carbs are broken down to glucose and this is your bodies main and preferential energy source. This glucose will then be stored for tomorrow’s energy requirements. Today’s energy comes from yesterdays food, unless your glucose stores are depleted and then you would uptake whatever is in your blood (energy drinks?). Glucose is stored in the muscles and liver, as one part glucose 3 parts water, but of course can also be stored in fat cells.
Glucose is stored in your fat cells if you ingest more than you need. Pastries, pasta, milk, sweets, potatoes, rice, bread, wine, chocolate, beer, are all high in carbs so its easy to see how you could easily gain unwanted weight, if you do not pay attention to what you put in your mouth.
Depending on activity levels, body weight and training regimen, the average person needs between 150-300 grams per day. Pro or semi-pro athletes would of course consume way more than that.
So is there a best time to consume them for weight loss?
Of course this question has come from the low carb approach to weight loss, which can be an effective method to lose weight, but the question I always ask someone who wants to lose weight is – is it sustainable?
Which then leads on to – how much weight do you have to lose?
If this is a short term strategy for a physique athlete to make weight for a contest, it can be a good strategy. If its for some one who wants to lose 5-10lbs for a holiday, its not such a great strategy, and I’ll tell you why.
Carbohydrate (glucose) is stored in the muscles along with water. So when you lower your carb intake, the weight loss you see on the scale is the water and glucose that you lost from your muscles. Dependent on your body weight (larger people will store more) this could account for a 5-10lbs drop on the scale! So not a single drop of it was fat!
To the athlete who has to get his weight down for a competition, its fine as it doesn’t matter how the athletes achieves the number on the scale.
For the person who is trying to get into shape for a holiday, of course what they really want to lose to look and feel good is fat, well seeing the scale numbers drop might offer some short term happiness, but all the alcoholic drinks and lovely meals eaten whilst away will see that weight come back by the time they get home!
Carbohydrate, fats, and proteins are all needed for optimal health and performance, don’t reduce just one of them. A much better approach to weight loss, is to reduce your overall calorie consumption.
Carbohydrate tends to be high for most people, but that is largely because they are not aware of how much they are consuming, so keeping a food journal for a few days will shed light on that.
But even still, don’t necessarily look to reduce carbs, just make smarter carb choices!
Choose carbs that are nutrient dense!
Foods such as Rye bread, potato, quinoa, oats, lentils, berries, black beans, oranges and apples, offer many more nutrients (vitamins, minerals, fiber, fats, protein etc) besides just the glucose, so that offers you more satiety and a bigger metabolic boost!
That’s a win win situation! More nutrients and harder to over eat.
So to answer the question, I would say eat carbs whenever its convenient, but more so think about the types of carbs you are consuming, and try to improve their quality.
Gain some awareness around what you are eating by keeping a food journal for a few days, just keep notes on your phone. Reduce crappy carb choices and replace with more nutrient dense carbs from the list above.
Nutrient dense food is more filling, so be default you will eat less, but still provide your body with everything it needs to perform.
If you are looking for a high quality carb to add to your recipes or shakes, I highly recommend the powdered oats from myprotein. This has been a staple in my diet for years, I use it in oat pancakes and in smoothies, especially through periods of hard training or muscle building phases.
Well I hope that has been useful to you, if so please consider sharing the article to your favourite social media.
If you need any further clarification on anything, drop a comment below.