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Carbohydrates: Friend or Foe?


Carbohydrates: Friend or Foe?

Carbohydrates are one of most controversial foods in our industry. Just about everyone has an opinion on whether or not carbs are your friend or your foe.

If you are engaged in any sort of physical activity, especially the high intensity variety like the ones at our Calgary Bootcamp, then you absolutely need an adequate carbohydrate intake.

When it comes to changing your body, whether you want to tone, lose body fat, and reduce inches, your overall calorie intake will matter most, not your carbohydrate intake.


However, that being said, you always want to make sure you have a balance between carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats in your meal plan.

A good starting ratio we recommend to most of our bootcamp Calgary clients is to begin with 40-50 % carbohydrates, 30-35% % protein, and 20-25 % healthy fats.

Trying to reduce your carbohydrate levels below this ratio for quick results and instant gratification will work short term, but will always back fire on you long term.  Most of the weight you lose from a short-term reduction in carbohydrates is from water and glycogen (stored carbs in your muscles) anyway, not actual body fat.

Here are 5 reasons why you need Carbohydrates for long term success:

Energy. Your muscles, cells, and brain thrive on glucose. Carbohydrates are directly broken down into glucose, which are used by your muscles, cells, and brain to function at an optional level. Without adequate carbohydrates (glucose), your body will begin to break down protein (muscle tissue) to get this glucose instead. This is a process known as gluconeogenesis, and something you want to avoid, as a breakdown in muscle tissue (protein) decreases your resting metabolic rate.  Low levels of carbohydrates will mean less than optimal function for your body and brain, which is completely unsustainable.

Work out intensity. In order to train and workout at a high intensity at our Calgary Bootcamp Southwest, your body needs an adequate level of carbohydrates. This will be slightly different for each person, however it is recommended you start with the ratios given above. A combination of both weight training and interval cardio (HIIT) is the recommended training path for optimal fat loss. Both of these activities are very anaerobic or glycolytic.  Performing anaerobic activities main fuel source is glucose, whether that be glucose from carbohydrates stored in your muscles, liver, or from the food you eat. Low carbohydrates levels = low levels of fuel = low training intensity during weight training and HIIT sessions.  Training at a lower intensity means you will burn less overall calories, plateau faster with your fat loss, and may see a decrease in lean muscle.

Cravings.  As we now know, your body needs glucose to function. If you aren’t getting glucose from good clean, complex carbohydrates, your body will turn to muscle tissue for glucose. However, while your body is trying to find glucose to function, it will start to crave sugary foods and sweets. These cravings can be extremely powerful, and will last until you begin to nourish your body with clean carbohydrates (or opt out for refined, unhealthy carbohydrates leading to an increase in body fat). Either way, these cravings will continue long term, which shows that low carb meal plans cannot be sustained. When you start to re-introduce carbohydrates in again, you will experience what is called a “rebound effect”, and you actually start to gain back some weight. How much or how long you have restricted your carbohydrates determines how much weight you gain back. I’m sure some of you have experienced this before by following unsustainable diet plans in the past, where you end up weighing more than when you started

Density. Complex Carbohydrates like brown rice, quinoa, yam, potato, oatmeal, etc. are heavier and denser, compared to foods that are lower in carbs like nuts, seeds, fruits, veggies, etc. The denser a food is, the faster it will fill you up and longer it will keep you full. In turn, this will create sustained energy levels, sustained blood sugar levels, and much less cravings. You always want to make sure you are eating enough high-density foods for these reasons, with the majority that happen to be from complex carbohydrates.

Hormones. Low carbohydrate intake can reduce your thyroid hormone production, slow down thyroid functions, and always lower leptin and ghrelin levels.  All of these hormones plan an important role in fat loss and maintaining a healthy bodyweight.

So when you are training and eating for fat loss, whether that’s at our Calgary Bootcamp SW or on your own, be sure to include lots of clean complex Carbs in your food plan!  The best choices are oatmeal, brown/white rice, quinoa, brown pasta, Ezekiel bread, yam, sweet pototo, regular potato, etc.

Always here to inspire and motivated you,

David Macdonald and the Vitality Fitness Team

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