MARIKA DAY (@marikaday on the gram) is my absolute favourite go-to for bullshit free nutritional advice. She doesn’t pussy foot around anything and only gives you facts based on evidence. Marika also doesn’t hold back from telling it like it is, which is exactly why I love her and went to her to give YOU the best crap-free advice when it comes to your mate, CARBS.

We have all had that colleague at work or heard that trainer in the gym telling us we can't eat carbs at night or we won’t lose weight. Or maybe it was someone passing sly judgement and snarky comments for eating bread, or even that you shouldn’t be having any carbs at all. So what the hell is the truth behind this? This is one food fear that seriously is dying hard. Sometimes I get optimistic and think that maybe we’ve got the message out there but then I overhear someone saying they’ve cut out fruit to lose weight and I feel like we are back at square one. So let’s go over this concept. 

Carbohydrates are not essential to life, yes you heard that correctly, you won’t drop dead if you cut out carbs. However, I am not on this planet to just sustain life. I am here for a good time, an enjoyable time and actually want to feel good and kick some goals in the process. So for me the argument that carbs aren’t essential is just like saying sex isn’t essential. Yeah sure, you have fun with that. 

Pleasure aside, let’s look at why carbs are actually important though: 

  • Our brain’s primary fuel source is glucose (sugar, a carb!) without carbs we do not mentally function as optimally, we can use ketones but this process isn’t as efficient and isn’t the preferred source of fuel for our brain

  • Carbs are incredibly satiating. Carbs help keep us full, in fact potatoes are one of the most satiating foods on the planet. If we don’t ever feel full, we can find ourselves snacking, grazing or overeating. 

  • Carbs are our best energy source for exercise that has repeated bouts of high intensity efforts. On a low carb or no carb diet, our performance begins to drop, we can’t maintain the same sessions, the same intensity and get the same progress in the gym or on the field. 

  • Carbs are essential for gut health - fibre is a carbohydrate. If we don’t eat enough carbs, we don’t get enough fibre. The best thing for a healthy gut is a wide variety of fibre from different plants including fruits, vegetables, wholegrains, legumes, nuts and seeds. 

  • Carbs will not inherently cause weight gain. We have incredibly strong research that has been repeated over and over again to show that when calories are accounted for it does not matter if you follow a low carb or high carb diet. 

Photos from Marika’s IG @marikaday

Photos from Marika’s IG @marikaday

Can we all agree there are some pretty convincing benefits to including carbs in the diet now? So let’s look at the notion of carb timing and when we should or shouldn’t eat carbs. 

Essentially, the overarching principle here is that the time you consume a food will not significantly effect your body composition. That is the rule. There are a few exceptions here. For example some athletes who have strict body composition goals and are training like beasts need carbs to fuel their sessions but due to body composition goals they are keeping calories low (which means carbs are lower too). For these individuals having their carbs around their training session (before and after) means they can perform their best, and recover quickly. Again, they aren’t avoiding carbs but because the calorie budget is low, they are optimising the time around training so they can continue to perform and recover. Does this translate into your every day person, no! Average Joe isn’t training twice a day, needing to perform at that level and needing to meet strict body composition goals. The best time to eat carbs for the average Joe is when you need them most. Like I said, many people find carbs incredibly satiating, so if eating some potato with dinner at night keeps you full and stops you snacking all evening, fantastic. If carbs at breakfast keeps you full till lunch, perfect! If you need some carbs at every meal, great. At the end of the day the key to reducing body fat is reducing total caloric intake, if including carbs keeps you full this may actually be beneficial to reducing caloric intake!

Don’t let fear mongers tell you that you need to eat a certain way. Understand what makes you feel best, what helps you train your best, and how you feel you function optimally. For some that will be low carb, for others that will be high carb, there are 1000 ways to eat well, get to know what works for you.

Find Marika on the gram @marikaday