Plenty of people try low-carb diets, but here’s why I’ve found they’re not right for me.
Hi, I’m Tamara, an athlete and personal trainer, and I love carbs.
For my clients and friends alike that revelation is shocking. And I'm not sure why, because carbs are some of my favorite foods. Here's a quick carb lesson if you're not 100% sure what they are exactly.
Carbohydrates (along with protein and fats) are one of the three main components, or macronutrients, that can be found in food. The main source of the body's energy, they come in two types that provide fuel for the body — simple and complex carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates are sugars that can be found in sweet treats and drinks (and also fruit, milk, and other foods), while complex carbs, including starches and fiber, can be found in fruit, whole grains, legumes, veggies, and more.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans and other experts suggest that adults eat carbs, protein, and some fat as part of a healthy diet, although many diets recommend cutting back on carbs to lose weight. (The research looking at low fat vs low carb diets suggests that both work, but that focusing on healthy eating rather than calorie counting is best.)
I reached out to Abby Langer, RD and owner of Abby Langer Nutrition to talk about the potential benefits of a carb-friendly diet for athletes. And I decided to share why I personally don't eat a low-carb diet.
Note: This is the eating pattern that works for me, but it may not be right for everyone.
Brooke Lark / Via unsplash.com
I love my figure.
I've played sports my entire life and love my athletic build and I don't plan on losing it any time soon. I feel like eating carbs has helped me progress and recover more quickly in terms of athletic ability and performance, as well as maintain my strength.
According to Langer, “a carb-restricted diet can lead to muscle catabolism. Meaning the destruction of muscle.” She also shared that “a low-carb diet may negatively effect athletic performance, which in turn may effect muscle building.”
Tam's tip: if your carb intake has decreased and your workout regimen has increased and you still aren't seeing any changes in your muscle mass, carb consumption — or the lack thereof — may be the issue.
Tamara Pridgett / Via instagram.com
They give me much needed energy.
If you didn't know it before, carbohydrates are the body's first source of energy. When it comes to fueling your body, it's a good idea to choose whole grain and minimally refined and processed carbohydrates that are rich in fiber, according to Langer.
Drake / Via Giphy
And they make me happy.
Long-term carb restriction can negatively affect your mood, according to a 2009 study in the Archives of Internal Medicine. Other research suggests that carb restriction is linked to fatigue and negative affect, which is the tendency to have negative response in moods and emotions. Essentially, cutting back too far on carbs can make you feel lousy, sluggish, and irritable just to name a few of the effects. If you read that and said “that's me,” consider getting yourself some carbs, erring on the side of the nutrient- and fiber-rich, minimally processed carbs.
E! / Via Giphy
Carbs keep my workout game on point.
As an All-American sprinter who does lots of high-intensity workouts carbs = life. And Langer backed me up on this one. “Research suggests that for optimal performance athletes should still include carbs in their diet,” she said.
Of course, not all bodies are the same, and some will react better to carbs than others so be sure to consult a healthcare professional to develop a nutritional plan that works best for you and your needs. (Take this quiz to see if you can survive a day eating low carb.)
Tamara Pridgett / Via Instagram
My hormones and bones can be effected.
Low-carb diets can increase cortisol (the stress hormone) levels and decrease thyroid hormones, which could increase your risk for illness, Langer said.
Inadequate nutrition also increases the chances of female athletes developing the Female Athlete Triad. Defined by The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists as “a medical condition observed in physically active females involving three components: 1) low energy availability with or without disordered eating, 2) menstrual dysfunction, and 3) low bone density.”
@ariannadrawings / Via Instagram: @awesomeanatomyart
I love fruit too much.
Fruits like mangos, peaches, apples and bananas ALL CONTAIN CARBS.
hbfit / Via instagram.com
I have commitment issues.
I can hardly commit to what I'm going to wear outside of the house let alone going low carb.
Langer explained that low-carb diets aren't necessarily bad for healthy people, but following a very restrictive low-carb diet like the Ketogenic Diet might be hard to sustain and adhere to over time, so it probably isn't realistic.
Nickelodeon / Via Giphy