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Low-carb diets have been popular in the health and fitness world for quite some time.

And while there certainly are people who benefit from eating a relatively small amount of carbs, these macronutrients are crucial for people who work out hard.

Fall is race time, and I have had quite a few people ask me about carbs, calories, and training. Proper nutrition while training for and running a race is vital for performance, recovery, and overall wellness. So today I am going to talk about why we need carbs. If you’re an athlete (or train like one), you really shouldn’t overlook them. Carbs are critical both from the physical and mental standpoint. 

A macronutrient defined as:


-a substance required in relatively large amounts by living organisms, in particular.
-a type of food (e.g., fat, protein, carbohydrate) required in large amounts in the human diet.

Nutrition Suggestions for Training

Make sure you follow these important steps:

  1. Eat every 3-4 hours!  It's especially important when you’re working out harder to never go longer than 4 hours without eating anything during the day. Listen to your body and your get to know your unique hunger queues.  Don't know what those are? Join me for REVIVIFY a 14 day whole body reboot designed to reset your metabolism, and get in touch with what your body desires for fuel and your hunger queues. Find harmony and balance again! When training, your body needs additional calories from carbohydrates in order to increase the glycogen in muscles. Glycogen is the stored form of carbs that help fuel endurance sports. Easily digested carbs that work well, and are M & H Wellness approved, include sweet potatoes, bananas and watermelon to name a few.  
  2. Weigh yourself before and after long runs to gage how much water is being lost. You should drink 16-24 oz of water for every pound lost during exercise. But the ultimate goal is to hydrate effectively during your run so that you do not lose a considerable amount of water weight.

Now that I've covered the basics, let’s dive deeper. I'd like to break down sports nutrition guidelines for what to do before, during, and after a race or long run. Please note: a long run qualifies as anything that goes on for longer than 60 continuous minutes. And these are guidelines. If you know me, then you know I am a HUGE proponent of getting to know your unique body and finding out what works for YOU! 


Eat something 2-4 hours before your planned training run. Experiment during training to know what the perfect time frame for eating is for you. This can vary from person to person. Some people are able to eat 2 hours before a run while others feel they need a longer amount of time to let their food digest. It should contain easily digested carbohydrates + protein.
Examples of this would be:
1. Your favorite fruity protein packed smoothie
2. Protein packed pancakes or quinoa and brown rice porridge with hemp seeds
3. Greek/almond/coconut yogurt topped with fruit
4. 1 whole fruit + 1 HB egg


First of all, you need 3-4 cups of fluid during an hour of strenuous activity. If you're running for more than 60 minutes, that's when nutrient and hydration needs begin to change. I like to encourage getting electrolytes after the 60 minutes as well, which can come for coconut water. 
You also need 30-60 grams of carbohydrates per hour of exercise. This can be in liquid form, a sports bar, or solid food, whatever your stomach tolerates best. A helpful hint is to experiment with this BEFORE race day. 


After a long training sesh, you need 10-20 grams of protein along with 15 grams of carbohydrates within 30 minutes. Continue to rehydrate and be sure to eat a well-balanced meal within 2 hours of completing your exercise.
As always, listen to your body while training, competing, and recovering. If you feel hungry while increasing your activity, be sure to make sure you are properly hydrated since this helps you better gauge your hunger levels. Continue to focus on the most nutrient-dense foods available. Vegetables, lean protein, and energizing carbohydrates are all important parts of a balanced nutrition plan.

Why Your Body Needs Carbs

There are several ways that carbs impact your athletic performance:

  1. They give you energy for your workouts. Carbs are the first source that your body turns to when it needs energy. Carbs are stored in your muscles as glycogen, but if your glycogen stock is empty, your body can’t work properly. You may have heard of “carb loading,” especially among endurance athletes. “Carb loading” is exactly this: filling the glycogen storages with carbohydrates.
  2. They help your muscles to recover faster. To get the recovery process going, you need to refill your carb reserves. Just protein is not enough for recovery. The recommended ratio in your post workout meal or drink is 3:1 (30 grams of carbs, 10 grams of protein).
  3. They help you to build muscle. If you want to build muscle, you have to eat plenty of calories. Even if people know that, they still often make the mistake of only focusing on protein. However, you do need carbs too. Muscle growth happens during the rest and recovery and carbs helps to speed up this process.
  4. They may help with weight loss. Low carb diets may be hard on your adrenal glands, and as a result, your body will produce too many stress hormones. When your stress level is high, your body’s ability to burn fat decreases.

Why Your Mind Needs Carbs

Your physical body’s needs are just one side of the story. Carbs are essential for your mental health too!! 

Here’s why:

  1. They help you focus. It has been shown in many studies that lack of carbs can lead to a “foggy” brain and the inability to concentrate. If you’re interested in this kind of stuff, you can read more about it in this book.
  2. They keep you from getting cranky. Not having enough carbs (just like not having enough other macronutrients) will make you feel horrible. That will naturally lead to mood swings. Nobody wants to be around cranky people.

Good Carbs and Not So Good Carbs

One reason for carbophobia is that many people immediately associate carbs with things like bread, pasta, cereal, pastries and other processed foods. And yes,  these very high carb foods don’t have that much to offer to your body, but labelling all carbs "BAD" is shortsighted. There are so many awesome sources or carbohydrates that are found in non-processed foods, like many fruits and veggies. Also, whole grains are good source of carbohydrates.

Here are some examples of healthy high carb foods:

Fruits: Bananas, apples, cherries, mangoes, pineapple
Vegetables: Potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, squash
Legumes: Green peas, Azuki beans, black beans
Grains: Quinoa, rice, buckwheat

So, there definitely are some awesome carb sources. Don’t become carbophobic, just make good choices.

How Much Carbs Do You Need for Muscle Growth?

As mentioned earlier, if your goal is to build muscle, you need to eat carbs, not just protein. In this article, we recommended that 4.5 to 7 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight every day as the amount of carbs that you need for muscle building.

That means that if you weigh 140 lbs (63.5 kg), you should aim for at least 285 grams of carbs every day. A person who weighs 150 lbs should have 306 grams and a person who weighs 160 lbs, at least 326 grams of carbs every day.

To make your life easier, let's show you how many carbs are in the most common healthy carb sources, so you can plan your meals better.

Starchy veggies, whole grains and some fruit should be you main sources of carbohydrates. Fruits, especially dried fruits, are high in sugar, so be careful popping handfuls of them every day. Dried fruit is also often made even sweeter by adding sugar to it, so if possible, choose the natural unsweetened ones.

Carb Amounts in the Most Common Healthy Carb Sources

In the following list you find the nutritional value of the most common healthy carb sources. You will also see how many calories the most common portions of these foods have and how much fat and protein they contain.


Baked potato, medium – 37 grams of carbs (161 kcal; 0g fat, 4g protein)
Yams, 1 cup cooked – 37 grams of carbs (158 kcal; 0g fat, 2g protein)
Baked sweet potato, medium – 24 grams of carbs (103 kcal; 0g fat, 2g protein)
Squash (winter or butternut), 1 cup cooked – 22 grams of carbs (82 kcal; 0g fat, 2g protein)


Azuki beans, 1/2 cup – 29 grams of carbs (150 kcal; 0g fat, 9g protein)
Green peas, 1 cup – 25 grams of carbs (134 kcal; 0g fat, 9g protein)
Lima beans, 1/2 cup – 20 grams of carbs (108 kcal; 0g fat, 7.5g protein)
Black beans, 1/2 cup – 20 grams of carbs (114 kcal; 0g fat, 7.5g protein)


Medium sized banana – 27 grams of carbs (105 kcal; 0g fat, 1g protein)
Medium sized apple – 25 grams of carbs (95 kcal; 0g fat, 0g protein)
Grapes, 1 cup – 27 grams of carbs (104 kcal; 0g fat, 1g protein)
Mangoes, 1 cup – 28 grams of carbs (107 kcal; 0g fat, 1g protein)
Pineapple, 1 cup – 22 grams of carbs (82 kcal; 0g fat, 1g protein)

Dried Fruit

Raisins, 1 oz – 22 grams of carbs (84 kcal; 0g fat, 1g protein)
Dates, 1 medium – 18 grams of carbs (66 kcal; 0g fat, 1g protein)
Figs, 3 pieces – 15 grams of carbs (63 kcal; 0g fat, 0g protein)
Cherries, 1 oz – 23 grams of carbs (98 kcal; 0g fat, 1g protein)


1 cup of cooked quinoa – 39 grams of carbs (222 kcal; 4g fat, 8g protein)
1 cup of cooked brown rice – 45 grams of carbs (216 kcal; 2g fat, 5g protein)
1 cup dry rolled oats – 56 grams of carbs (307 kcal; 5g fat, 11g protein)


Corn cob, medium – 19 grams of carbs (83 kcal; 1g fat, 2.5g protein)
Honey, 1 tbsp – 17 grams of carbs (64 kcal; 0g fat, 0g protein)

Don’t Be Afraid of Carbs!

Low-carb diets may work for those who don’t move all that much, but if you are a physically active person, you shouldn’t leave them out from your diet. If your goal is to build some muscle at the same time, there is even more reason to eat them.

The rule of thumb is to have at least 4.5 grams of carbs per bodyweight kilogram. If you eat 3 times a day, simply divide the number you get by three to know how many carbs you should eat at every meal to meet your goal.

And of course, if you’re snacking between meals, save some carbs for snacks.

One more important thing to remember: You are unique and you have access to the most sophisticated computer on the planet. Your body!!! So stay in touch with your own nutritional needs. If you don't know what that is, then check out my program REVIVIFY. You will learn how to ignite your metabolism, reboot your health, and find harmony and balance. 

What do you think about carbs? Yay or nay? Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below! 


Nutritional data source: