The Carb-Calorie Connection & 3 Mistakes Low-Carb Suckas Make

Written by Jason Ferruggia Topics: Nutrition

The Truth about CarbsGuest Post by Nate Miyaki, Author of The Truth About Carbs

Don’t call it a comeback; carbs have been here for years

Building rockin’ bodies amongst my peers

Puttin’ misinformed low-carb suckas in fear….

You want the Carb Truth? Do you think you can handle it?

Carbs are gonna knock you out…in a good way baby. Carbs trigger serotonin release, which induces restful sleep. Many athletes that train hard and try to cut carbs at night suffer from insomnia. Now you know why.

But if you flip the script and include some carbs with dinner like Momma, Miyaki, and the Renegade said, you’ll optimize recovery by getting the best sleep of your life.

Dude, I’m about to turn 36 years old and I had a frickin’ wet dream last night. It was glorious. That’s also probably because carbs positively impact the free testosterone-to-cortisol ratio, specifically in response to recovery from high-intensity training.

Ah, your People’s Nutrition Champion digresses as always. Both of those are tantalizing tales for another time…

The Colossal Connection

Today, we’re going to talk about the Carb-Calorie Connection, and how forgetting about that Andre the Giant and Haku-like Colossal Connection can lead to a lot of dietary mistakes, and thus, frustrating physique results.

Carbs have gotten a lot of the blame for the downfall of modern civilization, and more importantly, the massive invasion of man boobs and muffin tops everywhere. But the truth is over consuming total calories — regardless of the macronutrient — is the true culprit.

So calories are the most important number to get right in the fat loss equation. They are not the only number as many calorie counting diets proclaim, but they are the most important one.

And despite some of the metabolic, hormonal, and satiety advantages of certain food choices and macronutrient ratios, total calories still count. The only way to force your body to burn off stored fat is to take in fewer calories than you expend, on average, over some time frame.

Mistake #1 — Going Low Carb But Forgetting About Total Calories

You can cut carbs to zero as has become popular in today’s Low Carb Era, but if you end up in a calorie surplus with unlimited dietary fats, you won’t lose body fat. You’ll gain it.

How many people do you know who say, “calories don’t count” are actually as lean as you’d like to be?

That’s why you see them wearing sweaters in the classroom more than with their shirts off, pants off, and Freeing Little Willy or Unleashing Thelma & Louise at the nude beach.

What happens when you go low-carb but still overeat total calories?

  1. Lowering carbs and insulin increases fat oxidation (fat burning) rates. But increased fat oxidation rates do not necessarily equal lower body fat, no matter how intelligent or cool the word sounds.
  1. If you are in a state of caloric excess and there are fatty acids constantly circulating in your bloodstream from an unlimited dietary fat intake (ie drinking 1000 calorie butter and coconut oil coffee in the morning, eating bacon all day, and drowning every meal in as much oil as possible, etc.), your body will use those ingested fats as energy first BEFORE tapping into body fat stores.
  1. In caloric excess, there is no physiological reason for your body to break down body fat. That’s an unnecessary extra step, and your body prefers the most efficient route to energy production possible, despite you wishing for something different.
  1. In other words, it doesn’t matter if your body is a “fat burning machine” if you are only burning ingesting dietary fats instead of body fat. You won’t lose the love handles and get lean.
  1. Quite the opposite is true. Excess calories will be stored as body fat, regardless if insulin levels are constantly kept at a low level by banishing carbs to the Underworld.

So even if you go low-carb, you still need to pay attention to the amount of dietary fat you are taking in (in order to control overall calories) if you want to get Ravishing Rick Rude-style ripped.

Or, in more minimalistic language — ease back on the butter and bacon if your belly is still covering your ballsac (or beaver).

Mistake #2 – Fearing The Carb During Fat Slashing Phases

Jay and I have talked about the following topic numerous times on this blog, in our books, while chopping it up on Renegade Radio, while cutting up the dance floor to old school hip hop, etc. – high intensity exercise completely changes the nutrition game.

The anaerobic energy production pathway (what we use while strength training, sprinting, cross training, competing in intermittent team sports, etc.) runs on glucose/carbs. It can’t use lipids or ketones. While the body can use fatty acids as fuel at rest, and even those who train only in the aerobic zone can become “fat adapted”, Renegade-style workouts require glucose.

That’s the geeky reason why I like to keep some carbs in the diet – you better fuel and recover from intense training sessions.

For those who fear the carb during fat slashing phases, just remember the calorie connection we mentioned above, and that total calories are still the most important fat loss step.

If you strength train while maintaining a relative calorie deficit, you can still include some starchy carbs in the diet while losing significant amounts of body fat.

The best part is you get better energy, better muscle retention, don’t screw up your metabolism, don’t set yourself up for huge post-dieting rebounds, and maintain natural hormone production.

The majority of the leanest people on Earth — natural bodybuilders and fitness models (yes, even the non-juiced up, non-crazy, non-OCD, perfectly healthy ones) –diet this way.

Pre-contest diets include animal proteins, veggies, whole fruit, AND some starch to support anaerobic training.

You shouldn’t learn everything from gifted athletes, because genetics and drugs often play a factor. But you can’t completely ignore them either. The percentage of people who achieve success with the above approach is more than just coincidence. It is statistical significance – not just in a journal or intellectual circle jerk – but also in the real world.

Mistake #3 – Adding Carbs Back In Without Dropping The Dietary Fat Down To Compensate

However, here is one mistake that I see happen time and time again. Someone is following a lower carb/higher fat/Paleo-style diet and combining it with consistent anaerobic training.

They are suffering from some of the associated symptoms of this mismatched plan like poor performance, bad mood, anxiety or depression, muscle loss, stubborn fat, skinny-fat syndrome, insomnia, and lowered testosterone and/or thyroid production.

They decide to add some carbs back into their diet to better support their training sessions. But they don’t change anything else. Here is what they’ve missed.

Adding carbs adds calories to their diet. So with the addition of carbs to their diet, they are now eating in a calorie surplus. What happens? They gain fat.

They falsely attribute this fat gain solely to the carbs (but it was actually because of an increase in total calories), condemn carbs as the starchy root of all evil, further increase their Nightmare on No-Carb Street, and go back to suffering through a mismatched diet.

You must keep calories the same if you want to truly test whether carbs are the bad guys or perhaps your best friends. Protein should stay constant to support lean muscle mass.

That’s why your carb and added fat intake must be inversely related.

If you add carbs into your diet, you should remove an equal amount of calories from dietary fat for a truly controlled testing phase.

Your Simple Carb Solution

Given all of the above, here is my preferred approach for customizing carb intake.

Keep carbs as high as possible to fuel and recover from anaerobic training while:

  • Eating enough protein to support lean muscle mass
  • Eating a baseline level of fats to support normal functioning and natural hormone production
  • Getting in the calorie deficit necessary for optimum fat loss

To accomplish that:

  • Set calories at a level that is ideal for fat loss
  • Set protein and baseline fat intake
  • Fill in all remaining calories with carbohydrates
  • Adjust the calories as necessary based on progress, primarily by increasing or decreasing carb intake.

If you would like to know more about the details of this strategy with specific numbers and calculations, or if you just want to support your People’s Nutrition Champion, you can check out Nate’s new book:

The Truth About Carbs: How to Eat Just the Right Amount of Carbs to Slash Fat, Look Great Naked, & Live Lean Year-Round