T Nation

Why Do Nutritionists and Nutrition Textbooks Adovcate High Carbs?


Not all mind you, but the majority of textbooks advocate it and my friends studying say that their classes and teachers also teach them this.

I am inclined to think that a PhD means something and the fact that these people have studied the science behind nutrition means that their opinion probably needs to be considered.

I am looking for thoughtful critiques on the question "Why does the apparent scientific consensus seem to lean towards higher carbs and lower protein/fat?" Please spare me the "all nutritionists are fat so we don't need to listen to them" responses, as well as the "it has worked for me and all my friends so I believe in it".

And I know the T-Nation scriptures, so no need to quote it chapter and verse.


The short answer is: Higher carbohydrates are usually recomended for athletic performance, and deservingly s. Athletes use the glycogen that carbs provide. 45 minutes of weight training alone does not nearly deplete glycogen as would 45 minutes of wrestling or sprinting. Physique modification is where higher protein comes into play.

If you are an athlete that needs to modify your physique then the following applies.

I'm going to go into protein to back into the support for why high protein is the approach for physique modification.

While the International Society of Sports Nutrition reccomends protein intakes of 1.4 â?? 2.0 g/kg/day (.6-.8 g/lb/day) for strength and power exercise, keep in mind these figures are not for body recomposition. I personally feel this number is minimum end of the range if the goal is body transformation rather than strength and power exercise.

I would propose that for the purposes of body recomp protein is not used to just keep nitrogen balance positive, but nitrogen balance must be drastically positive. To this end the calories from protein is just a means to an end. and I suggest 3.3-4.4g/kg, or 1.5-2 g/lb, should be used. The remainder should be from fat and carbs.


If an excess amount of calories is consumed (goal = bulking), there are studies showing less protein is needed for positive nitrogen balance. However, unless you are sub 10% bf stick with 2 g/lb/day because it is likely that you are not sensitive enough to insulin to handle the excess carbs, and eating enough excess calories all from fat would not be ideal.

Based on 10% excess calories**:
Protein: 2 g/pound

Carbs & Fat: Between [~2.4g/pound and ~.4g/pound respectively] & [~1g/pound and ~1g/pound respectively]

** assumes an athlete ~15% BF and exercise is ~1hr free weights (adjust macros accordingly for lbm and exercise)

If you're in a calorie deficit (goal = cutting), also stick to 2 g/lb/day to keep nitrogen balance as high as possible.

I hope this helps.



I would like to know which textbooks you have read because one of my B.S. degrees is in biochemistry and none of the texts recommended anything as far as macronutrient ratios on the diet. If you are referring to dietetic textbooks, remember that most textbooks are usually at least 10 years behind current research. Most people seem to be searching for some miracle diet and/or pill (read supplements) that will solve all their problems.

What they don't relize is that everybody will respond differently to different situations. Humans evolved mainly as meat eaters so protein and fat were the main sources of macronutrients, in fact protein and fat are the only macronutrients required to live. The introduction of carbohydrates as a major portion of the human diet in the form of produce and especially bread began roughly 10,000 years ago. Most evolution experts seem to agree that it takes 400-500 generations for a species to optimally evolve in response to an evolutionary stimulus.

This means that the human race is still in the process of evolving to use carbohydrates effectively and there is no real way of knowing how one individual willrespond to a certain amount of carbs in their diet. Most people are best served by starting out with a 40/30/30 protein/fat/carb ratio (such as the Zone diet) and adjusting it to suit their own specific response.

As to your question, people generally listen to people who tell them what they want to hear and since most people will agree that carbs taste great, they will be more willing to follow a diet that has more of what they like in it. Also, which experts are you referring to? Most diet "experts" I hear about these days seem to be harping on the "evils" of carbs.


Fortunately, the dietetics teachers I've had for my degrees and dietetic internship were not carb nuts!

My internship director actually uses 40/30/30 and PSMFs with her clients.


What text book?

"Physiological Bases of Sports Performance," Mark Hargreaves & John A. Hawley 2003

Chapter 8: "Nutrition for training and competition" which indicates that pre-exercise muscle glycogen stores determine capacity for prolonged exercise (backed by studies)

You're right though mcook that carbohydrates are not required for health. On the contrary, VLCK (very low carbohydrate ketogenic) diets are very healthy and are how we evolved.

This article should be a sticky: "Metabolic Effects of the Very-Low-Carbohydrate Diets: Misunderstood "Villains" of Human Metabolism" http://www.jissn.com/content/1/2/7#B8

"...landmark study showed that a very-low-carbohydrate diet resulted in a significant reduction in fat mass and a concomitant increase in lean body mass in normal-weight men.

"...Contrary to popular belief, insulin is not needed for glucose uptake and utilization in man.

"...Finally, both muscle fat and carbohydrate burn in an amino acid flame."

My recomendations to leave carbs are only when trying to add mass. if maintaining or cutting you should minimize or eliminate carbs. if performing in an athletic event down't worry too much about carbs as you probably train multiple times per day.

Also when bulking multiple (2X) daily exercise sessions will minimize fat gain due to the carbohydrates by "teaching" your body to use carbohydrates as a fuel source rather than to store it.

Ever wonder why gymnasts, wrestlers, water polo players, track and field athletes are often ripped? it's because they manage to avoid the typical conundrum of carbs by working out multiple times per day.


mostly because most nutrition degrees are sponsored by the big food business. the first one was sponsored by general mills/ theres a lot of decisions in the health industry that have nothing to do with gettin people healthy


I have no idea what the fuck Kanada is talking about. Nearly all of the degrees and EVERY dietetic internship are under the watch of the Commission on Accreditation of Dietetics Education (CADE), the Commission on Dietetics Registration (CDR), and the American Dietetics Association (ADA).

Can you name a few courses taught in a didactic program in dietetics (DPD) or a Master's of Public Health or Nutrition? I think not.

I've been through the gammet of:

Organic chemistry
Research Methodology
Medical Nutrition Therapy I and II
Nutrition Communications
Exercise Physiology
Weight Control
Nutritional Aspects of Exercise
Food and Culture
Food Science
Food Technology
Community Nutrition
Grant Writing
Trends and Challenges in the Nutrition Industry
Contemporary Nutrition
Foodservice Management I & II

What the fuck do any of these have to do with big business? How would studying big business help us in working where diettians usually work: hospitals, nursing homes, military, etc.

Granted, there are quite a few dietitians working in the food and supplement industry and public relations; I actually have a colleague who is the account supervisor the Food and Nutrition practice of one of NYC's major PR firms. Yes, that's big business. But publicizing nutrition and food brands has little to nothing to do with the training we receive. Corporate and business RDs are hired in those areas because of their expertise in nutrition.


As I understand it, the majority of studies done on athletic performance and nutrition were mainly performed on Endurance athletes. This group requires more carbs/glycogen to perform optimally, where strength athlete/bodybuilder do not.

This is merely a guess though, correct me if I'm wrong.


I have a really cool dietetic professor whos not a carbaholic. Shes young and seems really on top of all the latest trends and research. Shes really great. Shes not anti-carb either, just really open minded.

I have other professors that are so/so on the topic. I have a physiology professor who truly is a smart guy. Really intelligent dude that knows lots about everything. However, he cringes if he hears low carb diet and goes into an angry rant if he hears ketosis. He honestly thinks its suicide. He also feels that creatine supplementation will lead to downregulating the synthesis of the body's natural creatine phosphate stores. I wonder if he eats beef or fish?


Actually, the ketogenic diet has been shown to help with epilepsy.


I think He got this info from Mr. Johnny "I hate the ADA and all dietitians" Bowden. I still think he has some good info, but the dietitian hating really pisses me off.

As far as textbooks and high carb diets being emphasized I do think the info is out dated, but that is pretty much the only heavily researched diet, so the ADA and other organizations are going to recommend them. Shit low fat, low cholesterol diets have been shown to be less effective for cardiac patients than a Mediterranean diet but cardiologist and the American heart association still recommend them. There hasn't been enough research on low carb, high protein diets for the ADA to start recommending them, researchers are working on getting more quality research and if you notice low-carb is more main stream than ever before, but it will still be a few years if at all until it is recommended.

Is it right or wrong, its not my call, but you have to be smart and listen to Dietitians that are good at what they do and get results from their clients.

What It comes down to it listen to what everyone has to say, read studies and articles, develop you owns opinions based on results and go from there.

Dietetics isn't the only field that is behind the times, in my exercise physiology class all of the stuff they were teaching was way out of date.

Ill stop after this point, the main goal of the ADA and other non-sports nutrition organizations is to reduce the risks/symptoms of chronic disease through nutritional intervention, they are not out here to help bodybuilders get huge or get people shredded, yeah weight loss is a goal to prevent medical complications, but any one can lose weight on a high carb diet if their calories are low enough. They are going to target the largest population and make recommendations to help that populations, it would not benefit the majority of the population to start recommending only sports and bodybuilder friendly diets cause we make up, what <5% of the population.


I agree except that some people with higher metabolisms can probably stand to keep carbs in even while dieting, I don't see the point of dropping them completely when you're trying to conserve maximal muscle mass while losing weight as slowly as possible as the insulin producing effects are extremly valuable in that effort, not to mention giving you more energy to be more productive in the gym.


I've only found that literature with child populations.