More carbs for fat loss? Am I for real?
Yes. But with a HUGE caveat…
Before we dive into the one time you want to be eating carbs to help control fat gain, let’s rewind slightly and look at the role of carbs for energy.
We’re designed to run primarily off carbohydrate energy. Very simply, our bodies release insulin to convert carbs to glucose for immediate energy. Anything we don’t use gets stored as glycogen in the muscles. Anything not used after that is stored as fat.
So, if we eat too many calories for our energy needs, we put on fat.
Some foods convert to energy quickly (high glycemic index or High GI) and these are typically foods high in sugars, either naturally occurring, like fruit, or processed, like gummy bears.
Other foods release their energy more slowly (Low GI) like oats. Generally we want to aim for more low GI foods to avoid spiking our insulin and creating a steady energy release.Now, although carbohydrates are key for energy they’ve had a bad rep in recent years. The reason is that most of us are simply eating too many of the wrong kinds of carbohydrate – processed foods that tend to be high in sugar, releasing energy fast that our bodies aren’t using, and that are high in calories, resulting in increased body fat.
So, to lose body fat we want to create a slight daily calorie deficit and also ensure we’re getting the right amount of carbs of the right type: lots of vegetables, leafy greens, vibrant colours.In fact, for most of us, if we were to simply cut out all processed foods (including bread) and cut back on brown and white carbs (rices, potatoes, pasta, noodles) we’d see positive changes in body composition.That’s the quality, what about the quantity. Well to maintain where you’re at (all other things being equal) aim for 45 – 55% of your daily intake to be good quality carbs. If you’re looking to lose body fat, aim for 30 – 40 %.So far so good. To lose body fat, aim for 30 – 50% of your diet to be good quality natural carbs from natural sources avoiding all processed foods and creating an overall slightly daily calorie deficit.
So where does eating more carbs for fat loss come in I hear you ask?
Well, under certain conditions, if there’s no available carbohydrate energy (glucose and glycogen) your body will spike cortisol to release energy from other sources.
If you’re already under stress (raised cortisol) then you’re training hard or for a long time fasted or with little food, your cortisol will spike in order to provide your body more energy.
Raised cortisol over extended periods results in more abdominal fat (which in turn produces more cortisol).
What does this mean in practice? If we’re into endurance type training or we’re doing heavy resistance training, we want to ensure we’re fuelled.Eating carbs at this time will spike insulin to release the energy your body needs and suppress cortisol. In effect we’re using carbohydrates to regulate cortisol and prevent the fat storage we’d otherwise be at risk of.So, yes, under certain conditions, eating more carbs will help you lose fat by helping suppress cortisol 🙂
This is the kind of geeky science we love and use to adapt our own training and nutrition for our results and the results of our clients. My go to workout snack is our power smoothie – oats, water, whey protein and peanut butter. What’s your go to workout snack?
Let me know in comments…