nutrition-5The 2 Ways to Earn Your Carbs

Contrary to what some would have you believe, carbs are not evil

But unlike other macro-nutrients though, they should be earned

Charles Poliquin

Protein is the one macronutrient that should be prioritized.  Not only because it’s an essential requirement for staying lean, strong, and healthy, but because it’s impossible to overconsume, and actually prevents overconsumption.  With research showing that any excess is burned not stored, and an adequate intake increases satiation and reduces cravings between meals.

For example, a 2015 study from the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition had a group of 48 resistance-trained men and women consume 2.3 or 3.4g of protein per kg of bodyweight per day, and found greater reductions in fat mass and body fat percentage in the higher protein group.  But what was most interesting, is that the gains in fat free mass (i.e. muscle) were the same, despite 50% more protein, and the additional calories that accompanied it.

Fat is number two on the list because it’s also essential for our body (and our brain) to function optimally.  With saturated fats specifically, who support nutrient absorption, membrane and hormone building, and vitamin conversion and transport.

For males with a bodyfat percentage above 10%, and women above 15%, fats should make up the bulk of the calories after protein (20-30%). And for those with any degree of insulin resistance or symptoms of the metabolic syndrome, they should make up ALL of those extra calories (40%+).

Carbohydrates are third because they’re non-essential; meaning, our body is perfectly capable of functioning without them.  Those keeping their total carbohydrate intake under 50g enter a state of ‘ketosis,’ and utilize stored fat as energy.

Which isn’t to say fat people should always be in ketosis, or that ketosis is necessary for everyone (ex: naturally lean, highly active).  But rather, using predominantly fat as fuel is an option, and depending on the individual, it can be extremely beneficial.   Especially when looking at a very low-carb (ketogenic) diet’s superior impact on the biomarkers for disease:

  • Reduces beta-amyloid
  • Increases antioxidants (glutathione)
  • Stimulates mitochondrial growth
  • Improves glucose tolerance and cholesterol profile
  • Prevents free-radical damage
  • Reduces inflammation
  • Lowers triglycerides and fasting insulin
  • Provides alternative brain fuel (in Alzheimer’s patients) –
  • Improves motor performance (in ALS sufferers) –
  • Lowers HbA1c (in type 2 diabetics)

In my experience, the majority of the population can benefit from a 3-4 week ketogenic (or very low-carb) diet, as most are carrying excess fat, and dealing with varying degrees of insulin resistance.  Generally, these individuals are also sedentary, stressed and sleep deprived, so even if they were close to being lean, I wouldn’t encourage higher-glycemic carbohydrates because it would inhibit their results; for both body composition and long-term health.

Low-Glycemic Vegetables

Lettuce (All)

Brussels Sprouts

Shallots & Scallions

Onions & Chives

Bok Choy

Collard Greens

Mustard Greens

Turnip Greens







Cabbage (All)





Peppers (All)







Swiss Chard






nutrition-6Whether they carry on with the ketogenic diet depends on their personal responsiveness; though in most cases it involves adding 1 or 2 low-sugar, high-fiber fruits (ex: berries) and vegetables (ex: squashes) back each week without sacrificing increases in insulin sensitivity and reductions in bodyfat.

In other words, there are two ways to earn your carbs:

  1. Get Leaner
  2. Exercise More

And realistically, the second doesn’t happen without the first.  Because if you’re not lean, you’re simply stalling the fat loss process:

High-Glycemic Carbs = Insulin Up (Storage) = Glucagon Down (Burning)

And if you’re exercising with carbohydrates in your system, you’re burning glucose not fat.  Which isn’t necessarily a big deal if you’re an insulin-sensitive SOB pumping iron to build muscle, but it is if you’re a belt-busting baby-boomer looking to shed some pounds.

For instance, a 2011 study from the European Journal of Applied Physiology separated active young men into three groups and had them go for a brisk walk:

  • low-glycemic meal
  • low-glycemic meal with fructose
  • high-glycemic meal

The group that ate the low-glycemic meal burned primarily fat, while the other 2 groups burned mainly stored carbohydrates. Not only showing us the negative impact of pre-workout sugar, but showing us how ‘fructose’ alone can sabotage an otherwise effective nutrition strategy.

The period following exercise is a bit of a different story, in that muscle tissue is sensitive. Meaning, elevated insulin promotes tissue building and glycogen resynthesis, instead of fat storage.  Although, that’s provided you’re not experiencing the anabolic resistance (non-receptive muscle tissue) that often accompanies insulin resistance.

Interestingly, the latest research suggests that a high-quality whey protein does a sufficient job of elevating insulin and maximizing muscle protein synthesis (MPS) without the need for extra glucose.  And training with low muscle glycogen does not suppress the anabolic response, as researchers once thought it did.  Implying that those lacking insulin sensitivity, and carrying unnecessary bodyfat, are better with a plain protein shake or some low glycemic fruit (like berries), as opposed to seeking a massive carbohydrate reload.

Low-Glycemic Fruit

Berries  (All)










Honeydew Melon


nutrition-7Obviously, context matters; as a high-level athlete training twice a day would need adequate glycogen replenishment.  But, if you’re a desk-jockey with man boobs, or a stress-ball with a muffin-top, you’re best leaving the bananas for the monkeys.

Even if you did go to the gym once!

Want to know more about this topic? In Live It, NOT Diet!, Mike Sheridan delivers his progressive plan for losing the fat and keeping it off without counting calories, over-exercising, or sacrificing your health.


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