by on April 18, 2014


Debating carbohydrate needs, like fat intake, is often a very controversial topic. You have many who believe in a higher carb, lower fat diet for optimal health and longevity, while others believe the opposite is true. While I do not agree with any low-fat diet approach for an extended period of time, I don’t like to get too dogmatic in my approach. I like to always keep an open mind when working with clients. One thing that experience has taught me, is that carb needs vary quite a bit from individual to individual and depends on many factors, the most important being their activity level.

With that being said, I do believe carbs have a very important role to play. The right kinds of carbs provide an excellent source of sustained energy to carry you through the brutal workouts that I advise. I believe you need muscle glycogen to get you through higher volume routines, specifically the type that you will find in my Mountain Dog training programs.

One of the biggest factors in achieving an excellent body composition is the fine tuning of insulin sensitivity. The more insulin sensitive you are, the better your body is at shuttling glucose into cells and out of your blood. When you become insulin resistant, your pancreas will try to crank out more insulin, and more, and more. When your body sees constantly elevated insulin levels, your cells won’t be able to take in as much carbohydrate due to insulin receptors not working as well, cells making less carrier proteins called glucose transporters, or both.

So what do I think about grains, and gluten, and wheat etc? It’s simple; if they make you feel bad, don’t eat them. If you don’t have an issue with say gluten, go ahead and have a few slices of toast with your eggs.

I also believe in having fun, and doing cool things like going to a pancake breakfast with your family on occasion. As long as 90% of your carbs are coming from whole food sources, feel free to live a little!

So, I think that you will find that I am not in either camp of high carbohydrates or low carbohydrates. The optimal diet is the one that is specific for you. Using past experience and learning the client enables me to help you find both the right amount and when to include them.

To Recap

There are three factors that I focus on when adding carbohydrates to a plan: the type of carbohydrate and the timing of carbohydrate intake.

  • The types of carbohydrates that I recommend come mainly from whole food sources. Things like oatmeal, sweet potato and rice are pillars in my plans.
  • The timing of carbohydrate intake is equally important. I tend to focus the majority of carbohydrate intake around training times to maximize the effects of increased energy for exercise combined with elevated insulin levels for both enhanced glycogen replenishment, and decreased muscle protein breakdown. By keeping carbohydrates out at certain times of the day I find that I am able to get the best of both worlds in terms of lean muscle gain and enhanced fat loss.
  • I also believe eating should be fun, and you shouldn’t have to steer clear of ANY food. As long as your diet is no more than 10% fun foods, you will do just fine. So bring on the pancakes!

John Meadows