Carbohydrate counting is one of the oldest fads in the industry. It’s a great way to reduce the total amount of calories taken in throughout the day. If carbs are so bad for us, then why are professional athletes using them to stay lean and athletic?
Carbohydrate Counting for Athletes
First, let us define what an athlete is in this context. Athletes perform frequent bouts of high intensity or very long endurance events. It is taboo at the moment to consider a lower carbohydrate diet for endurance athletes, but there is definitely a following. Due to the longer duration of these sports they run primarily in the aerobic zone of energy usage. This means they use fat over the short lived carbohydrate stores. It can be argued that pushing your body to utilize fat more often with lower carb diets could be beneficial.
For athletes that use Type 2A, explosive fibers (sprinters, powerlifting, bodybuilding, etc) you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone touting a low carbohydrate diet. This is because the 2A muscle fibers (fast twitch) primarily run anaerobically. During anaerobic activity your body loves to utilize carbohydrates for a quick fuel source.
Why Don’t They Get Fat?
It is not uncommon for athletes to eat upwards of 300-400 grams of carbohydrates in a day. In my bodybuilding days, I would hit 350 grams during a cut. The ones that consistently stay active will be burning through these stores making them less susceptible to “spill over.” Spill over is a crude explanation of what happens when you eat too many carbohydrates. Instead of storing glycogen in the muscles and liver, they body will chose to store the energy for later as fat. The Joe Shmoe that spends zero time running sprints or working at a high intensity will likely be having a lot of spill over.
Determining Carb Amounts for Explosive Athletes
The first step is to find out how many calories you should be taking in. Check out the link here to figure that out if you don’t already know. The next step is to subtract your required calories from the 2 essential macronutrients (PROTEIN and FATS). You can multiply the fat by 9 and the protein by 4 to get the calories required. Use the remainder of calories for carbohydrates. Another rule of thumb is to follow a 50% carbohydrate diet.
EXAMPLE: 2500 Calories Goal, 180g of Protein and 90g of Fat
Calories from Fat: 90g x 9 Calories = 810 calories
Calories from Protein: 180g x 4 Calories = 720 calories
810 Calories + 720 Calories = 1530 Calories
Leaving (2500 calories – 1530 calories =) 970 Calories / 4 grams (for carbs) = 242 grams of carbs
2500 Calories X .5 = 1250 Calories from Carbs
1250 Calories / 4 grams = 312 grams of carbs
Carbohydrate Counting for Everyone Else
Ok, athletes and highly active people can eat carbohydrates without getting fat, but what about the rest of us? For the general population, I like to keep it pretty simple using some of the primal blueprint’s methodology.
Fat Loss Goals: 50-100 grams
The Rest of the Time: 100-150 grams
If you enjoy carbs so much and don’t want to give them up, then consider taking up an active hobby like hiking, running, or some recreational sport. It doesn’t get much easier than that! These numbers of course are talking about eating the right kind of foods.
Aside from the issues you see in the mirror from carbohydrates, there may be problems going on internally from them that are not seen. Do you feel lethargic, depressed, or have a hard time focusing? Sugar has been found to have significant effects on many organs within the body causing some of these symptoms.
Read more about the effects of SUGAR here!