Carbs have been villainized, but are they that bad?

With all the hype around protein and low fat, the big question is, what about carbohydrates? Women’s diets have been steered away from Carbohydrates through health and diet advice, when the extreme cutting out of Carbs, or any other food/ nutrient, is causing all the problems. Especially in active women because our metabolism is more sensitive to dramatic restrictions. When women have malnutrition, especially carbohydrates, they have a reduction in the production of the neuropeptide, which is responsible for sex hormones, endocrine and reproductive function, and has a role in maintaining healthy glucose levels, appetite, and body composition. Low carbohydrates in female athletes can also mess with their iron levels and be a catalyst for anemia. 

According to Dr. Stacy Sims, women perform best in a fueled state, which includes carbohydrates. They are the preferred fuel source for the brain and provide other functions to the body.  

  • Provide energy and regulation of blood glucose.
  • Sparing the use of proteins for energy.
  • Breakdown of fatty acids and preventing ketosis.
  • Dietary fiber.
  • Cholesterol and triglyceride metabolism
  • Assist in lipid metabolism

So don’t cut the carbs out. Instead, incorporate eating them around your workouts. They will help boost your energy during your workout and prevent burnout. 

How much carbohydrates should you incorporate in your diet? According to Dr. Stacey Sims, it depends on what activity you are doing that day. Here are some examples of carbohydrate intake. 

For reference: the baseline calorie intake for women to meet energy needs is 40-45 calories per kg body weight.

  • For a light or active recovery day, aim for 2.5 grams of carbs per kilogram.
  • For short intense days (like CrossFit training), aim for 2.5 to 3 grams of carbs per kilogram.
  • For moderate- to high-intensity training lasting 60 to 120 minutes, you need 3 to 3.5 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram.
  • For endurance training involving two to five hours of intense training per day (distance running, cycling, swimming), you need 4.5 to 6 grams of carbs per kilogram.
  • For extremely intense training of five hours or more per day (Ironman or multisport events), you need 6 to 7 grams of carbs per kilogram.

The best carbs to eat are unprocessed or minimally processed whole grains, vegetables, fruits and beans. Remember balance is important, cutting out a nutrient or food completely is never a good diet. Also, everybody performs differently, so it is always good to check with a professional before changing your diet and exercise routine. 

Healthy Carb Loaded Foods

  • Oats
  • Berries
  • Potatoes
  • Bread
  • Farro
  • Pumpkin 
  • Rice
  • Dates
  • Yogurt 
  • Banana 
  • Quinoa
  • Lentils
  • Beans 
  • Barley

So don’t exclude carbs, instead incorporate them into healthy pre workout meals that will fuel your mind and your body so you can hit that Pilates workout hard! 

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