Low Carb Diets… I’m not a fan. Just being honest. Why? Well, let me give you 25 reasons why:
1.) Carbs Are Fuel. PERIOD.
Carbs are the body’s primary fuel source, plain and simple. High-fat/low-carb diets CAN work, but in majority of cases they’re best for individuals who are not performing hard training. Higher carb diets make any athlete, serious or recreational, perform better.
2.) Boost Hormone Production.
Carbs are extremely important to stimulate the thyroid and create a better hormonal balance in your body. The thyroid itself is involved in almost every cell and function in your body, so it’s pretty damn important. Carbs aren’t the only thing that helps this function improve, but it’s a big part of it.
Which is why Kate Deering is so big on consuming carbs and why she goes deep into this in her book, “How To Heal Your Metabolism”.
3.) Great Poops. 💩
When we’re restricting carbs, it can be tough to get enough fiber in our diets. When it’s hard to get enough fiber, it’s hard to keep things regular and as much as people don’t like to discuss poop… You should be pooping, often.
4.) Lowers Stress Levels.
This is one of the reasons I do condone post workout shakes for some people. No, not because the anabolic window is only 30 minutes after you set the weights down and if you don’t get protein you lost all your gainz, making that workout pretty much pointless…
It’s because training creates a cortisol response in the body, one that increases this hormone – which is good, temporarily. But chronically, it’s not good.
What’s the best way to shut it off or blunt it to level things out? Carbs. Because insulin is our switch for that cortisol to shut off or lower and the best way to trigger the insulin response, is carbs (protein comes in second).
Removing carbs from the diet can cause chronically elevated cortisol levels if you’re not smart and very specific about how you’re doing it.
5.) Carbs Are Awesome.
Not much else to say… I enjoy carbs, you enjoy carbs, your family enjoys carbs, your friends enjoy carbs… So why cut them out? Especially since we now know they’re not the enemy here!
6.) Improved Sleep Quality.
This has been proven in multiple studies, but basically it comes back down to #4 which is lowering cortisol levels which can help with your circadian rhythm and natural melatonin production – aka allow you to actually shut down at the end of the night and fall asleep.
But carbs can also help you get into parasympathetic mode (nervous system), rather than staying in sympathetic. The difference here is rest and digest vs. fight or flight.
This is a big reason why intermittent fasting and carb back loading worked so well and became so popular. Bunching your carbs in one time zone, or just making this your dominant calorie consumption time window, can help you shut down, recovery, relax, and get a good night’s rest.
7.) Better Body Composition.
In my personal experience coaching over the years, as well as many of the top level nutrition coaches I have in my circle, I’ve seen the best body compositions come from people who do not demonize or slash out carbs.
I mean, think about it… What do bodybuilders do? Actually, what have they always done?
High protein, high carb, low fat diets…. I wonder why?
I’m not condoning low fat, by any means, and I believe that many of those bodybuilder’s cut it dangerously low. But they were definitely onto something by keeping carbs higher and we also need to remember that they were involved in a sport that requires unhealthy nutrient cutting for a temporary time period.
Carbs help you perform, build more muscle, and are a protein-sparing nutrient. So whether you want to get strong, outperform everyone in the gym, build more muscle, or get ripped by burning body fat – carbs will help you do that.
8.) Improved Adherence and Consistency.
The number 1 rule to a successful diet is making sure that adherence is there. If you cannot be adherent, you will not be successful for longer than a month and this work takes time.
The point here is simple -> If we cut something out, you want it. If you want it and can’t have it, you won’t last long. Lower the temptation by NOT restricting.
9.) Flexibility = Sustainability
Following up on #8 because it deserves the extra attention.
A balanced approach that doesn’t demonize or restrict any one specific macronutrient is always going to create more sustainability by allowing more flexibility.
10.) Kill Your Cravings.
Very rarely do we crave fat.
Actually, that’s a lie… Butter, peanut butter, bacon… I guess we do, but typically this is caused by a nutrient deficiency, hormonal imbalance, stress, or lack of sleep. The cool thing here is that carbs can help all those things improve and therefore remove that craving.
But to add to that, I’d say that 75% of cravings are sugar related and carbs can not only help remove that craving – they can help you fit in those cravings without over spilling on your calories. I’d rather see you get rid of the craving all-together, but that can take time. So this is an easy way to avoid binging.
11.) Grandma Stays Happy.
Kind of a joke, but also completely dead serious.
I’ll never forget going to my grandma’s for dinner during the time that I was preparing for my physique/bodybuilding competition and had to avoid certain foods at the table, bring my own prep meals, etc…
In my family, dinner is everything. For birthdays, holidays, and any other celebration, presents are nowhere near as important as the dinner gathering. We eat, we connect, we laugh, and we EAT (it deserved to be said twice, because we go in!).
And the look on a grandmother’s face when you have to pass on her delicious cooking, which of course was made with love…. Not worth it.
12.) Boost Your Metabolism.
Metabolism is more regulated by calories in general, we know this. But we also know that if we’re training hard carbs take priority and fat comes in second AND that our thyroid may be more stimulated by carbohydrates.
Both of those things, harder training and healthier thyroid will lead to a faster metabolism. A faster metabolism will lead to a better body composition and overall better health.
So when we break this down into steps, we need to first get calories in check and then work on increasing carbohydrates while maintaining body fat – reverse diet, essentially.
2 things to consider here:
#1 – 75% of people are undereating, which means we need to increase calories up and in my experience over the years, carbs are the first thing that need to be brought up because they’re the most neglected. People accidently eat plenty fat without even realizing it.
#2 – You can only bring fat up so much before it just stores as body fat. I have a fat minimum requirement, because fat is an essential nutrient, we need it for life. But at a certain point, after you’ve passed that requirement, it makes more sense to have more carbs. This is why when bringing your calories to and above healthy levels; carbs usually end up being your main moving nutrient.
13.) No Pumps.
It’s really hard to get a great pump in the gym when you’re cutting carbs and everyone loves a great pump. Even from a science perspective, it’s important to get good pumps – it means you’re well fed, hydrated, and blood and oxygen are getting to the muscles you’re working, which not only builds more muscle but also prevents injury.
14.) Beer and Wine, Are Carbs.
Actually alcohol can get metabolized in the body similar to the way fat does, so I actually suggest cutting fat in your day to fit alcohol in for the most part. But it’s usually not one single macro that you cut to be able to fit in a drink or two…. Or six.
The point here is again, flexibility. Being able to know HOW to do this and still see results is super important and if we cut out or demonize any one nutrient, you won’t be able to enjoy some drinks on occasion.
15.) Dopamine and Serotonin Levels.
This actually depends on the individual and varies person to person, but these are neurotransmitters that can determine your motivation levels, performance, power output, workout endurance, and so much more.
So it’s important to consider and depending on what personality type you are, these can vary and determine how you should time your carbs. My advice, if you want to geek out on this, is to check out some of the work by Christian Thibaudeau.
Learning how to time your carbs to optimize your neurotransmitters can completely shift your performance and your results. Like I said, though, you need to geek out a bit so be ready AND make sure you have the foundations of nutrition, your big rocks, in place before splitting hairs to worry about this stuff.
16.) Fruits and Veggies.
Your diet should have a serving of fruit daily and an abundance of greens, colors, starches, roots, and all kinds of vegetables!
It blows my mind when someone cuts carbs to a point where they can only afford to have spinach or 4 ½ spears of grilled asparagus… Veggies are carbs and that is ok, you should be eating them daily.
And the fruit myth – it’s fake. Eat your fruit; it’s good for you.
17.) Mood Enhancer.
Carbs will help you be in a better mood. Could go back to lower cortisol and less stress that you’re more satiated with your diet, the serotonin and dopamine levels, or maybe just because you feel like you’re actually eating.
99.9% of my clients rate their mood at a higher level when we have more carbs in their diet.
18.) Brain Fog.
I hear a lot of people blaming carbs on having brain fog or that they run better on fats for fuels and I get it, there’s some science to prove that. But cutting carbs will not help your productivity and focus!
Ever cut carbs hard? Can you think straight? No (and you’re probably an asshole).
Usually brain fog comes from not eating any carbs all day or for multiple days, then eating a huge meal of carbs and going into a carb coma. That parasympathetic nervous system response is hitting you hard, you’re over stuffed, and it’s time to take a nap so you can digest and recover.
But when it’s the right amount of carbs and your body is having carbs on a regular basis, this just doesn’t happen. It’s practically non-existent in my experience and my explanation for it is that the body wants to get adapted and used to a certain type of fuel – then it can truly utilize it.
So even if you do go keto or higher fat, you’ll need to be consistent with that, too, before it starts to truly show benefit. But using one day as an example of any result doesn’t hold much weight at all.
(And the only way to truly feel great on fats for fuel is to go all in on fats… low carb is not keto.)
Going back to the flexibility point, because it’s really the crux of what allows people to be successful long-term. It’s really hard to eat at restaurants on a low carb diet. It’s not impossible by any means, but it’s not very enjoyable either.
Carbs are a protein sparing nutrient, which basically means that they can replace some of your protein to make sure that you’re getting enough of the nutrients needed to replenish, rebuild, and fully recovery muscle tissue.
This is SUPER important if you want to get strong, build muscle, and/or burn body fat. We need our tissue to be recovering and rebuilding as often as possible, this is being anabolic and being anabolic will lead to a much better body composition.
21.) Glycolytic Performance.
Anything over 20 reps, non-stop, or high intensity at all – should be fueled by carbs. Some activities can get by without carbs but anything that’s at a higher intensity will not be optimized unless you have some carbs in your diet. They literally are the dominant fuel source that pushes those higher intensity levels and you’re doing a disservice without them in your diet!
22.) Gut Health.
Not only because of fiber, but also because of the bacteria that’s needed in your gut microbiome in order for it to be healthy and diverse.
There are different probiotics, bacteria, and resistant starches out there that help your gut thrive and truly develop, as it’s needed in order to avoid so many bad autoimmune responses and diseases.
But the gut is also your “second brain”. The reason it’s called that is because of how important the gut is to the rest of our bodily systems – nervous system, hormones, brain, immune, etc… And the easiest way to take care of your gut is with a diverse and balanced diet. In this case, carbs are included.
23.) Nutrient Deficiencies.
Plain and simple, avoiding carbs is an easy way to also avoid vitamins and minerals that are crucial for vital health. Sweet potatoes, squash, carrots, berries, bananas, apples, bell peppers, oats, and all other types of carbohydrate based foods ALL have great vitamins and minerals that cannot be replaced. Yes supplements may help, but they will not fix the deficiency completely because your body will always do better with real food as its source of nutrients.
This is probably one that may surprise you to make the list, but let’s be real here – condiments can make a meal go from ok to fantastic in a matter of 2 tablespoons. And plus, who likes a dry salad? Not anyone I know of.
The point here is simple, almost all condiments have carbs in them and if you’re on a low carb diet, then you’re probably not able to fit them into your macros. Being able to have food that differs and tastes great on a daily basis can make a massive difference in your level of adherence.
25.) JUST FEELING GOOD!!
No science for this final point. Although I could prove this with science, I truly don’t think I need to because majority of people just feel better with carbs in their diet. Whether that’s a hormonal/physiological thing or it’s a placebo effect from having no big restrictions, who knows.
The fact remains that most people feel better on a diet with some carbs on it, even if that means they just get some refeed days in their week and the rest of the days are lower (not low, but lower).
Fat is not bad, in fact it’s 100% necessary if you want to not only get good results… but just survive as a human being.
No macro is bad; they’re all needed for a good diet (that’s not opinion, that’s factual).
This isn’t an “only high carb diets work” article, that’d be asinine – everything works with adherence and consistency.
The fact of the matter here is simple…
Rejecting, neglecting, or restricting ANY one thing is never going to be good for you.
And if you want to perform better, adhere longer, and see more total body results from your nutrition, I truly believe that having carbs in the diet will help you more than trying to restrict them. There’s a lot of science that will agree with this, I know a lot of extremely successful nutrition coaches who will agree with this, and I have a lot of very lean clients who will also agree with this.
Again, no bashing here…. Just standing up for my good friend, the carb.