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The Macronutrient Everyone Loves To Hate

In the 1960’s, Carbs (vegetables, fruits and starches) was known as the energy bullet for athletes. Approximately 12 years later, there came Atkins and carbs were portrayed as the “culprit.” Then, Paleo hit the market around 2016, however, this diet was introduced in 1970. Now, we have the ketogenic diet that is the most prevalent low carb diets on the market. I wonder what will be next?

Carbs are not bad. However, they may not agree with some, specifically those that have an intolerance to gluten (wheat). This is called celiac disease and you must be diagnosed by your physician. Celiac disease is when the small intestine is sensitive to gluten and it is hard to digest. While low carb diets do work really well with the obese and physically inactive population, they do not work as well with the physically active population and athletes. Fat requires more oxygen than carbohydrates to produce energy, so that means an athlete on a low carb diet would need to work at a harder level than if they were eating an adequate amount of carbohydrates. Carbohydrates preserve and enhance muscle glycogen storage during strenuous activity.

Let me explain…

During exercise, glycogen stores are depleted as muscle glycogen is converted to glucose and used for energy. Once this happens, the body needs an alternative energy source so it will turn to protein and fat. Having enough glycogen on board will help preserve skeletal muscle during exercise.

To ensure proper muscle energy stores for sports performance, fueling before and after, here are some fueling tips:

- Before a workout (at least 30 minutes or 1 hour before)

Greek yogurt and granola

Almond butter and apples

Egg whites with fruit

- Post workout (at least 30 minutes or 1 hour after)

Meat and vegetables

Protein shake


Oatmeal and milk

Researchers are clear that low carb diets make it difficult to sustain the intensity levels required for competitive and serious athletic performance. May I add, it can also result in vitamin deficiencies. Reduced fruit and starchy vegetables intake can often lead to fatigue, constipation and strong food cravings.

Bottom line is, if you are an athlete or someone who exercises 1 hour a day, you need healthy carbohydrates. Please consult a Registered Dietician to obtain the recommended amount of carbohydrates your body needs according to your activity level.

Yours in health,

Nichole Barras, Certified Personal Trainer

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