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The Low Carb Mistakes Killing Your Strength Gains

Let’s paint a picture – you go to the gym and train hard 3-4 times a week. You want to get strong and you know what it takes.




You know diet makes a huge impact on your results. You follow a low carb diet because you’ve heard it’s the best way to get lean, strong and perform well. You’ve heard about ‘fat adaptation’ and how the “Paleo” diet leads to awesome results.

Fitness with dumbbells

Except it doesn’t. Your tired, moody and struggling to even hit your old PB’s, let alone hit new ones. It sucks and you’re tired of bashing your head against the wall.

What if we told you there was a simple fix for all these problems? One that would help you get stronger, recover faster, have more energy, feel happier and be delicious?

The answer is simple. Eat some carbohydrates. Simple, easy, delicious.

“But won’t I get fat?”

“Don’t carbs make you constipated?”

“But I heard if I ate carbs, I would lose all my strength, my muscles would turn to battery acid and I would die of brain disease?”

All of these statements have no grounding in actual fact and are all holding you back from getting the strength you want. Here are a couple of reasons you should eat carbs:

  1. Your brain runs on them: Our brain runs most effectively on glucose, derived from carbohydrates. Where do you think your training focus comes from?
  2. They make you happier: Carbs lead to increased Serotonin, our feel good chemical.
  3. They give you fuel for muscle work: Carbs replenish glycogen which gives your muscles fuel for work.
  4. They improve recovery: refilling muscle glycogen is one of the best ways to recover.

The key question is how many carbs do you need and what are the best types. Lucky for you, we have the answers!

How to determine your carb needs

This can be done in a number of ways. Some people like to work out there calorie needs and work out a certain percentage of their calories to come from carbs. A better way to do it is to base it on your training. and basic portion sizes. This way is sustainable and personalised to you.  To do this remember a serving of carbs is what you can fit in a cupped hand.

We recommend for people to start with a handful of carbs in their meals both before and after training.  From here what we need to do is closely scrutinise your training and see if you are still improving. If you are, great, if not you simply add another serving of carbs throughout the day. When you get to a point where you are improving, maintain this level of carbohydrate. This eliminates the needs for pesky calorie counting apps and weighing food while keeping you focused on what truly matters, your performance in the gym. If you get to a point where you are improving but getting excess weight gain, drop it back one serving. This will also have the benefit of teaching you how to listen to your body.

Summary: If you aren’t improving, eat more. If you are gaining too much weight, eat a little less. Learn some body wisdom to identify what works for you.

What type of carbs?

With carbohydrates one thing we do at DC Health Performance is divide them into Anytime carbs and Workout Carbs. before we do that, lets look at the 3 main carbohydrate types.

Fiber rich: These carb sources have a high amount of fiber in them, making them excellent for digestive health and blood sugar control. They include but are not limited to: All vegetables, Peas, Beans, Legumes, most Fruits

Starchy Carbs: These have high amounts of starch in them. They include but are not limited to: Breads, Pasta, Quinoa, Sweet Potato, Potato, Oats and Rices

Sugary Carbs: These are very high in rapidly digested sugar. They include but are not limited to: Desserts, fruit juice, processed foods, sports drinks, dried fruits.

Once we understand this we can easily identify what our anytime and workout carbs are. Anytime carbs are fiber rich, workout carbs are sugary. Starchy carbs can be used strategically. For example, after a workout you may want to have some starchy carbs (rice) to help with recovery and glycogen replenishment. You could also have them in the meal before a particularly intense workout to fuel that particular session.

You also might have noticed that some carbs can be problematic to some people like gluten in wheat. The best way to identify whether this is an issue is to test it on yourself. There is no inherently bad food, only bad foods for certain individuals. Test and measure to see how you respond.

Enjoy your carbs and train hard!

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