Tuesday, August 10, 2010


So just what is the deal with carbs anyway? Everyone always talks about carbs, "carbs are bad for you" "don't eat too many carbs" "never eat carbs 3 hours before bed", the list is endless.

I realize I have done the same thing yet neglect to really explain why I limit my carbs, so I will attempt to explain it now.

You will find just as many people who completely disagree with me as those who agree with me, so I suggest you consider all the facts, look at the person who is providing you with the information and make up your own mind as to which "camp" you choose to be with.

Me? I am a 49 year old woman, I have given birth to a child, I hold a full time job, I am surgery and drug free. In other words, I work my butt off and haven't had liposuction or breast implants and don't take growth hormone or steroids. I do not believe in fad diets or quick fixes. It takes a great deal of hard work and determination to get where I am. I also compete in Figure, which means I stand on stage, posing in a small "bikini" with women who are anywhere from 18 to 60 years of age. In every competition I have entered (other than my very first one), in the open division, I have placed in the top five. In every masters division, I have placed in the top four.

I have a physique that is better looking than most women half my age. You will be hard pressed to find another woman my age walking around  with a physique that looks as good as mine, unless of course, she has seen her plastic surgeon, or she is on drugs and then, well, I cannot compare myself against someone who has been surgically altered or is taking androgenic/ ergogenic drugs. We will have vastly different looks, almost as if we are from different planets.

So, I feel that I am fairly knowledgeable about this topic.

First of all, every successful diet is based on a set number of calories. It doesn't really matter what you eat, if you eat more calories than you expend, you will gain weight. If you eat less calories than you expend you will lose weight.

Now exactly WHAT you eat will determine your body composition. You can have two women who are the same height and the same weight, yet one of them is 26% body fat and one is 19%, that is determined by what they eat, not necessarily how much they eat.

Once you determine what your caloric intake should be, there is a percentage of that caloric amount allowed for each macro nutrient (protein, carbohydrate, fat). This can also vary depending on the school of thought. You may follow a balanced diet where the macro nutrients are somewhat equally divided; or you may follow a bodybuilders diet of a ratio of say, 30% carbs, 40% protein, 30% fat; there are many of them to choose from.

The ratios you follow are based on your needs physically, your goals, and what you respond best to. I would suggest a balanced approach for those starting out, then it can be manipulated later.

My year round diet was established working with a professional nutritionist. I was already very fit, with low body fat percentage but wanted to look like a Figure competitor. I had no desire to compete, I just wanted to look like I did.

It was so successful I did start competing, and haven't stopped.

So my diet calls for one serving (or 3/4 cup) of most starches at four of my meals (this is usually 4 ounces, so I prefer to weigh it all to be precise). My last two meals are less, dinner has 3 ounces and prior to bed, it is negligible.

Carbohydrates are utilized by the body as a source of energy for your muscles and brain function. On nutrition labels in the United States you will see "carbohydrates" listed; however, many other counties list the same ingredient as "energy" not "carbohydrates". The body uses what it needs for immediate use, and then has some "storage space" in the muscles. Once that storage space is full, it over flows and is then stored as fat. Numerous studies have been done on this and just about everyone agrees with the fact that excess carbs are stored as fat.

Not only does the amount of carbohydrate matter, but the type does too. Complex carbohydrates are best, simple ones should be relegated to your post training meal only. More on this later.

So to give you an example: You want to take your red Ferrari for a little spin. You need to fill up the tank with the BEST gasoline you can so the car will go long, fast and smooth. Once that tank is full of premium, if you keep pumping in gas, it will spill over the outside of the fuel opening, run down the side of the car and ruin that beautiful lacquer paint job! (too many carbs)

After your Ferrari is filled with gas, you drive it around as fast as you can and notice the car seems to be barely chugging along, why, the gas tank is almost empty! Time to add more gas! (need more carbs)

The more you drive the more gas you use. (the more active you are, the more carbs you need)

Now when it's winter time and you don't want to get the Ferrari wet, you don't drive it, so you leave it covered all nice and snug in the garage. You don't need to fill up the gas tank because it isn't going anywhere. It doesn't need any gas. (you aren't exercising or it is close to bed time, you don't need as many carbs)

carbs), just like that Ferrari ran out of gas, you need to fill up your muscles with carbs, this is the biggest carb meal of the day. It should be about double what you normally eat, to make sure your muscles are filled up with energy to allow you to continue with your daily activities.

Throughout the day, as you continue to be active, you need to keep filling up your storage tank. When you get closer to bed time, say your evening meal (dinner), you don't need as much carbohydrate, so it can and should be reduced a bit.

A lot of people take this completely wrong and say "well, I just wont eat ANY carbs!", but this is a bad decision. Your brain functions on carbs, and it is the best, most efficient fuel choice for your body. The carbs are fuel, the protein is there to build new, lean muscle. If you do not eat enough carbs, you body turns to the lean muscle mass you have worked so hard to build and it uses that for energy, it does not use fat.

Most people who drastically limit carbs start to look lean, but they look "skinny" and gaunt and their muscles are not full and round, with a nice healthy look to them. They look more like prisoners of war.

This is why some bodybuilders will "carb cycle" , they will limit carbs a couple days then overload a couple. It is not something an average fitness buff needs to do, nor do I recommend it. You get tired, grouchy, angry and unless you actually have a specific date and goal of an event that is prompting you to do this, you will end up binging.

The "carb slam" above? It is actually waxy maize starch, a plant source of carbohydrate that is supposed to be absorbed extremely fast, it bypasses the stomach and is absorbed through the intestines. The perfect bodybuilders post workout carb drink!

You can buy all sorts of expensive post workout drinks that have this ingredient, or you can buy the big tub like this, with nothing in it but some yam root, and save a lot of money by mixing it up with some protein powder and water.

Tomorrow, Good Carbs, Bad Carbs!

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