Cori (00:00):
Hey guys, this is Cori from Redefining Strength. Welcome to the Fitness Hacks Podcast. This is the show where I share all my free workout and nutrition tips. I’m not going to ever fill this episode with sponsorships or ask you to buy anything. All I ask in return is if you’re enjoying the podcast to leave a review or leave a five star rating or even better share with somebody you think it might help. This will only take a few minutes and would mean the world to me and possibly change the life of someone. So let’s jump right in.

Cori (00:28):
I hate the demonization of any macronutrient, and on a few posts recently, I’ve gotten things like there are no essential carbs, demonizing carbs. And while I think that low carb ratios can be fabulous and work really well for people, I think keto can be very beneficial for people. I think the second we start just demonizing a macronutrient, writing it off, saying that it’s bad, that there’s no purpose to it, we’re holding ourselves back from seeing results. And that’s why I’m super excited to have Julia on today to dispel some of those myths and really share some true facts about carbs and how they can benefit us, especially as women. And as she’ll mention to you, may is all about women’s hormones and there are some great benefits of carbs to that. So welcome. Julia, can you give a little background on why when I even presented this topic to you because of those comments, you were so excited to talk more about carbs?

Julia (01:23):
Sure, yes. I am so excited to be here When it comes to women’s health and just hormone health in general, I think low carb diets are often recognized. It’s a tool to really balance our blood sugar or to kickstart weight loss, but they’re not really the best solution to long-term health. And kind of going off of what Corey said, I don’t love the demonization of any specific food group. I think that those diets can kind of be very catchy and promise a lot of results, but at the end of the day, we have to ask ourselves what’s most sustainable for us and what’s going to provide us with those long lasting changes? So super excited to be here. I know with hormones, fats get all the glory, so I really just wanted to dive into carbohydrates, how they affect our hormones, weight loss, and overall health as well today.

Cori (02:14):
So let’s jump right into myth number one. What is it in terms of carbohydrates?

Julia (02:23):
So there’s a few different factors here. The first would be kind of that adrenal dysregulation as we call it. Some of you may have heard of it in the term of adrenal fatigue. So when we are cutting our carbohydrates really low, essentially our body perceives that as under nutrition in a sense, if we’re under consuming carbohydrates. And it also perceives that in general as a stressor. So in someone who’s highly active, if you’re exerting a lot or for just a regular person, we need a certain amount of carbohydrates every day. And if we’re not meeting those needs, it really perceives that as to us because we’re not fueling properly for what we are doing. So when we experience this stress, our hypothalmic pituitary axis, otherwise known as our HVA access response by releasing cortisol, which we’ve probably all heard of, that’s our stress hormone. So this is a really normal short-term response to stress.

However, the issue arises when this becomes chronic and it happens day after day. So if we’re on a low carb diet for months, years at a time, continuously not getting what we need, our body perceives that as a stressor and it will continuously release that cortisol. And when this becomes chronic, that’s where we’re feeling burn out and just exhausted all the time. That’s where that kind of adrenal dysregulation fatigue term really comes in. And there are other issues that we run into it being fertility, thyroid that we can kind of dive into more as well.

Cori (03:53):
And I just want to go off of this a little bit because all of this really relates back to in summary, is myth number one is that low carb diets are good for your hormones. And I want to touch on this adrenal dysregulation specifically because we are seeing a lot more issues with adrenal fatigue, with thyroid health issues. And I’ve seen a lot of people recently blaming elevated cortisol levels on working out, and that is a stressor, which it is a good stressor. But what we’re so often ignoring with these things is we are blaming the wrong things in my opinion. And with that, we’re not paying attention to the impact that our fueling can have. And with the rise in popularity of low carb diets that impact that it can have when we’re already trying to train hard when people are already doing a lot of cardio. And off of that, even the nuance in what is low carb? Just because a ratio is high carb for somebody else, it might be low carb for you with your activity level. So even noting that low carb isn’t just one macro ratio, it’s a variety and it can really be impacted by your activity level as well. So going off of that, diving more into fertility and thyroid impact in terms of going low carb.

Julia (05:04):
Yeah, so we know that low carb can also affect our fertility essentially. If again, if we’re not eating enough for our needs, that’s really considered under nutrition and our body will respond to that by sometimes turning off ovulation, causing missed periods. And when it comes to the thyroid, we run into issues here because insulin is really necessary for our thyroid hormone conversion. So to get it from our inactive thyroid hormone known as T four to that active form known as T three, we need insulin to do that. And on low carbohydrate diets, it remains pretty low. So we’re not always able to effectively do that in turn affecting our thyroid.

Cori (05:45):
So it’s very key that we do pay attention to the carbohydrate intake that we have, especially based on our activity level. And then even our age might impact how many carbs are really necessary for us. So remember that there’s a lot of nuance to these things. Now you might be saying, okay, this is all well and good, but I want to lose weight, carbs make me gain weight. And I’ve gone on low carb diets and dropped weight very quickly, which I know is leading into myth number two that you brought up, which is carbs cause weight gain. Can you touch on that a little bit? I have a feeling there’s some people out there being like, whoa, whoa, whoa. I do eat carbs and I do gain weight.

Julia (06:24):
Yes, of course, of course. I love this one. So there’s been a lot of debate on whether low carb, low fat diets have produced better weight loss. And ultimately the research just shows that both our modest approaches at best. We do know that the weight loss on low carbohydrate diets can be attributed to really two main factors, and the first is just low caloric intake. So when we’re cutting out carbohydrate rich foods, it’s almost guaranteed that our caloric intake is going to be reduced as a result as well, kind of putting us in that deficit, which allows us to see weight loss. If you’re someone who is eating things like bagels, pancakes, even rice, things like that on a daily basis, even things like fruits, potatoes, whatever it may be, and you completely slash that out of your diet, that’s guaranteed to really drop calories significantly.

So that’s really the big first reason that we see that weight loss and sometimes blame it on carbs when it’s truthfully just caloric restriction overall. And the next would be a loss of fat-free mass. So when we’re cutting out carbohydrates, our glycogen stores, which are inner muscles become depleted. And as a result, we also lose that water weight that comes with it. For every gram of glucose taken out of glycogen, it brings with it about two to three grams of water weight with it. When we completely just deplete these stores, we’re losing that glycogen, we’re losing that water weight. And this kind of allows us to see that really quick, if you will, weight loss on low carb diets. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is actual fat loss.

Cori (08:03):
And that’s such a key point because carbs can cause weight gain in that you can see the scale increase because you’re storing that glycogen in your muscles. And the more muscle mass you have, the more stores you have. So the more, if you have a really carb heavy meal, more carbs in a day, the more you’re going to be able to store that, which is a good thing if you want to build muscle especially. But so it can cause weight gain. It’s just not causing fat gain. That’s a very key point too. So if you’re trying to drop pounds quickly on the scale and you deplete those glycogen stores, yeah, you’re going to lose weight on the scale, but you’re not actually losing fat any faster. And you might subsequently impact your fat loss results negatively, especially if you’re not getting enough fuel to maintain that lean muscle mass to see that body recomp happen.

So it’s very key. You also understand, yes, the scale might increase, but it’s not fat being gained. So it’s also separating out those two things and recognizing that as much as that number, it might hold some importance to you on the scale. What you ultimately want is to look leaner. And I always ask this question, would you really care what the scale said? If you felt like you looked fabulous in your bathing suit, your clothing, you liked how you looked in pictures, my guess is probably not. And you probably say, okay, well what do I weigh looking my most fabulous? And that’s the weight now I’m happy with, but that’s a whole other subject and I won’t fully tangent off onto that. Now going into the next myth, Julia, carbs aren’t good for your health. Can you touch on this? Because I think this goes back to even demonization of specific foods, and then we just write off whole food groups.

Julia (09:35):
Yes, a hundred percent. And we hear this all the time that carbs aren’t good for us, but it also goes back to the way that we identify carbs. So when we think of carbs, so many of us think of things like breads and pasta and cookies and donuts, not realizing that carbohydrates have so many different forms. Fruits are carbohydrates, vegetables are carbohydrates. So the point here being that all carbs aren’t created equal when we’re focusing on things like complex, complex fiber, rich carbohydrates, things like whole grains, vegetables, fruits, beans, legumes, they really help with our weight loss efforts. So first off, they help us manage our blood sugar, they help us manage our cholesterol levels and really aid in a healthy digestion because they’re fiber rich, which really feeds that good gut bacteria versus if we’re constantly relying on more simple carbs, things like candy, cookies, honey, those really quick digestion carbs, this can often spike blood sugar. This can cause weight gain over time. And of course for athletes and certain individuals, these can be really, really helpful tools. But if you’re someone looking to lose weight and we’re consuming these on a daily basis as our main source of carbohydrates, that’s where we really see those issues of carbs aren’t good for our health. And that’s kind of where that comes in.

Cori (10:57):
And I like that you added that nuance that I’m going to point out. Just to clarify too for people, the main source, so this is where I think it’s also really important that we understand the importance of tracking macros overall. Because if you’re staying within that carbohydrate intake limit that you’ve set for yourself and you’ve matched that to your activity level, you have a lot of freedom to include foods you love too. And this is not to say that whole natural foods with a lot of micronutrient diversity and density aren’t more important for our health. They are. But I always like to add this in because I think a lot of times too, we struggle to make changes because we feel like we’re restricted in what we can and cannot have. And while there are foods we know are not as good for our health, they can be balanced in, especially when we enjoy them and have a purpose and be part of that balance as long as you’re tracking that overall intake.

So I just wanted to add that in too, because too often we just do demonize things and we make ourselves feel guilty for having those things instead of realizing that along with the other balance they can be worked in and we can see very sustainable body composition happen, very sustainable health results without not or with still enjoying life. We’ll say. Now off of that, because I did mention body comp earlier in the scale myth number, I don’t even know what number it is at this point, but cutting carbs means you’ll burn more fat. Can you touch on that because that is something that we hear said a lot. I’m cutting carbs because I want to burn more fat and this will help me burn more fat.

Julia (12:22):
Yes, of course. So there is this idea that cutting carbs helps us burn more fat because we think that we’ll become more fat adapted in a sense. So while our body can run on this higher fat, lower carb diet, it doesn’t automatically mean that we will burn more body fat in a sense. And actually studies have shown that the amount of carbs you consume has very little to do with how much fat you burn regardless of the amount of insulin that is in your body. So what we do know is that carbohydrates have been shown to have protein sparing effects in which the body will utilize them for energy when needed versus breaking down muscle. And this is really important. If you’re someone who you’re looking to complete a body recomp, you want to really make sure that you’re maintaining that lean muscle mass and targeting that fat mass when it comes to weight loss.

So if we’re not consuming enough carbohydrates, our body will turn to muscle and begin at breaking that down. And that’s where we come up with that term, that catabolic environment versus that anabolic environment that we want to be in where our body is utilizing those carbs for fuel and replenishing our muscles and helping us still maintain that lean muscle mass that we have. And in turn, when we do maintain that lean muscle mass, we’re also supporting our metabolism because we know that the more lean muscle we have on us, the more that we will burn at rest. So it all kind of plays together and supports one or another as well.

Cori (13:48):
And before we dive into some facts off of this, I also want to touch on the fact that protein is so key, and we’re talking about still retaining that lean muscle mass while in that calorie deficit burning fat versus losing muscle. And going back to even what you mentioned earlier of whether or not a higher carb diet or a higher fat diet is better, they’ve sort of been proven equal. The one caveat to that being is the diet always higher in protein, seem to always win out and study. So protein is especially important, but since we’re talking about carbs today, going into some fats to help you even better utilize that protein and create that anabolic environment, build that lean muscle, which is honestly not only metabolism magic, but I would say the key to living our best lives until our final day on this planet, facts about carbs, carbs create an anabolic environment. Can you go into what that means and why they’re so important for building that muscle?

Julia (14:43):
Sure. So I know we just touched on this a little bit, but for athletes or just people engaging in regular exercise, we need carbohydrate to help power those workouts. So essentially what happens is the body converts when we’re eating food, that’s glucose, it goes into our muscle stores as glycogen, and it converts this glycogen into a TP molecules to use them as energy during our training. So if you’re a little bit carb depleted on a lower carb diet, this could lead to a lack of energy during your workouts and really hinder your ability to be able to build muscle because you’re not able to push to your fullest potential. So to sum it up, if you don’t have enough fuel in your tank, your body’s going to turn to muscle and begin breaking that down for energy. So these carbs really work to create what we call an anabolic environment where your body builds and repairs that lean muscle tissue that, as Corey just said, is magic for our metabolism. Long-term,

Cori (15:40):
Having enough carbs is super key when you want to build muscle, and I want to go off of this with the benefits both in a actual muscle building phase and in a deficit or fat loss phase. Because if you think about it, if you’re in a deficit, you’re not really getting enough of anything. And so the more you can promote that optimal environment to help yourself build lean muscle with keeping protein higher, the better off you’re going to be. So you want that immediate fuel. It’s why often you’ll even see figure fitness bikini competitors with higher carb ratios to be more protein sparing, to make sure that they’re retaining that lean muscle mass as they’re leaning down because they don’t want to look softer, they want to look toned. So they’re trying to make sure they’re doing everything in their power to maintain that lean muscle.

And if you’re going into a muscle building phase, you want those carbohydrates readily available so that you can actually build up. And where I’m going into all of this is not only is it important potentially in a deficit and in building muscle, but so often when we are trying to lose fat while retaining lean muscle, we do even cut our carbs, right? To see those faster drops on the scale and that sabotages our results. And then we even say, okay, well now I lost weight. So that practice maybe did work to hit the number on the scale, but then we say, well, now I want to build muscle and we don’t let go of that practice that maybe worked to lose those few pounds to then build a muscle. And so we don’t come out of that carb deficit, so to speak. And so then we wonder why we’re not building the muscle while working so hard.

And so that’s another thing that I just want to make us aware of is that even what may have worked despite potentially something else working better, as I pointed out with more carbs to maintain that lean muscle mass when you’re losing what might’ve worked to see the pounds dropped on the scale might now be sabotaging your muscle building efforts despite you feeling like you’re doing a lot of the things right, I’m increasing protein, I’m lifting heavy. So you have to look at what practices got you to one goal and how they might be negatively holding you back from hitting another. Now off of that, I know we’re talking about the importance of carbs, but one fact you did want to mention, and I saw that you pointed this out, and I think is a very key thing to bring up because it goes to the nuance of everything with fitness and nutrition. Some women might benefit from reducing their carb intake. Can you talk about why that’s so important to note while we’re talking about the benefits of carbs?

Julia (17:52):
Yeah, of course. And I know like you said, there’s probably some people watching this who are like, I just don’t function very well on a higher carb diet. Some carbs don’t work for me. So I did want to touch on this a little bit because there are those groups that we know who they do benefit from reducing carb intake, but keep in mind that they still, it doesn’t mean that they need a lower carb diet or to cut out carbs completely, but this would really be those people who are more insulin resistant. So whether this be PCOS, if they’re dealing with an insulin, insulin resistance rooted PCOS or a type two diabetic, or maybe someone who is going through menopause, when we know that that insulin resistance is a little bit more common to see at that time period due to those change in hormones, again, I did just want to touch on while reducing carb intake can be beneficial particularly for these groups, it also comes down to, again, our carb quality, those sources that we’re focusing on, and making sure that we’re still balancing out those meals overall. Essentially with reducing the carb intake, we typically see a better control of our blood sugar, but we can also do this by making sure that we’re balancing out our meals, incorporating things like protein, healthy fats, enough fiber at meals that also really helps to stabilize those blood sugar levels. So there is that balance that you can find where you’re still incorporating nutrient dense carbohydrates in your diet without cutting ’em out completely and still managing that blood sugar if you are someone who falls into one of those categories.

Cori (19:23):
And reducing carbs doesn’t mean no carb, as you pointed out. It means a lot of different things for a lot of different people based on their activity level. But this also just highlights the importance of always assessing what we need and how our body needs and goals and even lifestyle are evolving because what ratio might’ve worked for you at one stage may not work for you and another. And even if you do find, hey, I run often better off of lower carb, you might find by doing a higher carb cycle in between your low carb cycles that you get the benefits of keeping hormonal balance of even seeing that whoosh effect. Because on lower carb, sometimes you can feel like you look a little softer and squishier even though you’ve lost because your fat cells are storing the water. And by increasing your carbs, you actually get what’s called the whoosh effect, and you can have your fat cells release that water. So even if you have found that you work better on lower carb or work better on higher carb, it’s never bad to test out slightly different variations because you may be surprised by how all those things build and even meet you where you’re at at a different stage of life. So off of all of this, Julia, give us those few key takeaways just to really highlight what we should be focusing on moving forward.

Julia (20:29):
Sure. So I mean, going off of what you just said with anything, pay close attention to how you react to things. How is your sleep? How are your workouts? How are your energy levels? How are your menstrual cycles? Take notes on how your body responds to different cycles and make an effort to try different things and cycle through different ratios where you’re able to actually explore what works best for you and gather that appropriate data. And then coming off of that, I know I touched on this a little bit earlier, but just focusing on the quality versus just the quantity aspect of things. When we hear about these low carb diets or whatever it may be, these kind of flashy diet options, I think they promise a lot of results. And for those of us who are sitting in a position where we want to see change and we’re not where we want to be, it can be easy to be like, yes, this is going to be the answer for me, this is it.

But just take a moment to reflect and keep in mind and answer yourself, is this something that is sustainable for my lifestyle? Because at the end of the day, what’s most sustainable for us, what’s most enjoyable for us is what we’re going to be able to actually sustain and do long-term. Like how Corey said, if you’re able to incorporate that dessert or whatever it may be that you like from time to time, that’s what’s going to make this worthwhile for you. So again, I did just want to point out focusing on what you can add to your diet versus what you need to restrict. So how can I add more fiber to my diet? How can I add more nutrient dense carbohydrates, vegetables, beans, berries, those kinds of foods versus just thinking that you need to default to cutting out carbs altogether.

Cori (22:04):
I love that focus on quality, and I love that focus on balance. I mean, both are really truly key if we want to see lasting results off of that too. I did want to highlight one other thing. We talk a lot about the health value of those quality carbs, of the quality macronutrients in general of the quality foods, but it’s not even just that, which sounds really weird because our health is everything, but let’s face it, some of us have aesthetic goals that even leads to us making changes that really impact our health positively. So even off of that, if you’re like, well, I just can’t get myself to care about my health, which sounds weird, but we’ve done some form of that at some point. I mean, I’m guilty of doing that at some point where we need some more immediate can see results in it satisfying way, but even off of improving the quality which will pay off massively for your health. There’s a higher thermic effect to those quality nutrient dense foods, which means that’s going to help in your weight loss, fat loss efforts too. And even in making your body, which is a machine function so much better to build the muscles. So also understand that there is a benefit even just directly for your weight loss goals in improving the quality of those carbs you might be consuming over just completely restricting them.

Cori (23:13):
Thanks for listening to the Fitness Hack Podcast. Again, this is the place where I share all my free workout and nutrition tips. I’m never going to run sponsorships or ask you to buy anything. All I ask in return is if you’re enjoying the podcast to leave a rating review or share it with someone you think it might help. This will only take a few minutes and it would mean the world to me and possibly change life with someone.


*Please Note: this transcript is auto-generated and there may be some errors in the transcript