3 Myths about Carbohydrates

We live in the age of information. Information that is free, instantly available, and easily shared. Whilst this has many positive effects, in the nutrition world, the bite size ‘snacks’ of information that we consume on Twitter and Facebook often results in the oversimplification of complex issues that get painted either black or white, without any thought towards context, individual variation, and even the same individual having different nutritional needs on a day to day basis.

No nutrient has been caught up in this frenzy more than carbohydrates, and the science and politics of this nutrient has been covered in many books, journals, and videos. This article is not going to try to summarise all that research, but pick three common myths in the carbohydrate debate and attempt to bring balance to those particular issues (in the context of a healthy human training for the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge).

Myth 1: “Sports nutrition is all about eating carbohydrates all the time”

This is not true, and most modern sports dietitians are are well beyond recommending heavy carbohydrate loads 100% of the time. A good sports dietitian will tailor your carbohydrate intake not just to you as an individual, but to each day, and even the time of the day, depending on what training you are doing, and what the goals of that training session is.

This is called ‘periodised sports nutrition’. It is not high carb, low carb, or even medium carb, it is ‘smart carb’. Periodised sports nutrition understands that you do not go out and do the exact same training session each and every day, so why would you eat the exact same food and nutrients each and every day?

Myth 2: “If you stop eating carbohydrates you turn into a fat burning machine”.

This is true to a certain extent but a more correct statement would be: “If you stop eating carbohydrates you turn into a fat burning machine, but your ability to burn carbohydrates is impaired”.

It is an undisputed fact that the body has the ability to efficiently burn carbohydrates and fat. Periodised sports nutrition allows you work on improving both systems, not just one. If you stop eating carbs, you miss out on all the benefits of being an efficient carbohydrate burner. If you continuously flood your system with carbs, you switch off your fat burning system and that does not get trained either. Sports nutrition is about getting the best of both worlds.

Myth 3: The [low carb camp]/[high carb] camp is wrong and you must do it this particular way

The great thing about all this debate is that we can choose a way that works best for us, but that does not mean everyone else must follow that same diet. Of course when it comes to health, the general population should be encouraged and coaxed in a certain direction, but at the end of the day the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge is not the Tour de France, so you do have the freedom to choose an eating style that suits your beliefs as well as your unique sports nutrition needs.

Some people will choose a lower (or higher) carb intake, and that is fine. The most important thing is to ensure that it fits into your lifestyle, does not get in the way of your event (and health) goals, and your eating style allows you to maintain a healthy relationship with food. A good sports dietitian can not only help work out what is best for you, but will also listen to your thoughts and adapt and tailor this plan to fit into your beliefs and lifestyle whilst ensuring that it will help you achieve your goals.

If you would like guidance on choosing a nutrition plan that is right for you, check out what services Trailblazer Nutrition offers here. We can do Skype consultations, and also have two comprehensive and affordable written nutrition plans (also available through the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge shop).