T Nation

Why Do We Need Carbs?


I realize that the no/low carb diets are not popular here but that's ok, I want to hear why!

Other than fruits/veggies for vitamins/fiber why do we need any Carbs in our diet?

Charles Poliquin says that there are no "essential" carbs like there are EFA's and obviously we need protein.

The Kreb's cycle explains that we can gain/maitain muscle while losing/maintaining fat depending on our goals.

So why in your words do we "NEED" Carbs? (other than fruit/veg)

  1. Most people have a lower overall energy level on a low carb diets.
  2. Carbs are an essential part of post-workout nutrition.
  3. Oatmeal / whole grains are a great source of fiber.
  4. Everyone needs a little pasta and pizza once in a while.


  1. Why are they essential I'm asking??
  2. Yes but not the only sources
  3. nope, nobody NEEDS them, I want to know why anybody thinks we NEED them, not if we like them.


This is the important part.


what do you mean by need?

100-150 g would be good because your brain needs it and we don?t want it to use protein to produce sugar, don?t we.

If you work out you would benefit from them during and after the workout, but NEED?


I think our brains use up a certain type of carb, so I would say that they're essential for proper brain function.


There is a difference between what you NEED and what is optimal.


I started out as "Atkins boy"...but now I have discovered that unless I am bulking, I don't count calories or carbs for that matter.

It's all about high quality foods.

Simple rules:
1) no processed foods
2) protein at every meal
3) when given the choice of processed food vs fatty food (with protein), take the fatty food.

Oatmeal, legumes, spinach, and broccoli are staples...there is little/no need for pasta and rice. (Brown rice on occasion)

As far as I am concerned the no-processed-carb diet is the way to go.


But they're not......


Yes of course. But what if it's been proven that you can create great gains with very little carbs?
I'm not saying you can't gain with them of course, that's been proven already. But some say that there are no added benefits of carbs is greater quantities than the minimum for vitamins...


Who is creating "GREAT" gains without carbs or with the bare minimum? Could we see some "GREAT" gains from eating like this that outdo those who simply eat well? I am talking about massive gains in muscle mass, not someone who simply dieted this way.


CHO are essencial part of protien synthesis.


jay cutler(I only listed complex carbs) eats in a single day:

1 bagel, 1 cup oats,

2 cups of rice

2 cups of rice

1 cup of oats & 3 rice cakes

1 cup oats.

1 cup oats

Ron Coleman(I only listed complex carbs) eats in a single day:

3/4 cup of grits

red beans and rice, kernel corn and a couple of slices of cornbread

baked potato

a baked potato and a side of french fries

and another famous fella says this, " If I need to go for the dramatic, I'll adjust my diet. To get thicker and more massive I'll eat heavy carbs, then when I need to lean out, I go with fish and vegetables, and some carbs after training so I don't flatten out."


If you are not familiar with the role of insulin in post-workout nutrition, read the write up on Surge.

Personally, I think the low carb thing is bass ackwards. If you are in a caloric deficit why worry about excess calories be stored as fat? I would think this would only happen if you eat too many carbs in one sitting. Otherwise the carbs would be used for energy or to replenish muscle glycogen.

Last summer I tried anabolic diet with very strict adherence for 12 weeks. I certainly lost weight, but not much more than other cutting cycles where I included carbs. I also lost too much lean mass. At least for me, it seems that carbs are helpful in keeping lean mass while cutting.

Maybe there is a case for a low carb / high calorie diet when bulking to help minimize fat gains. But even then you would want good post-workout nutrition to maximize muscle gains.


i think the question is do we need grains?
we are designed to eat meat and plants,but grains are another story,at least imo.
me and dischoss were talking about the absence of post work out nutrition on the ad thread.we both read somewhere that in the absence of carbs,igf-1 will take the place of insulin,driving protein/aminos into the muscles.so even pwo is not needed.and many,including old timers did well on protein and fat.

in the field of glyconutrition,they are saying that there are essential sugars.8 to be exact.these sugars are needed for cell to cell communication.they say that the sad only provides 2 of these saccharides.and that cell communication is not optimal under these conditions.


I've pieced together important points that I know so far about macronutrient metabolism:

-The CNS and red blood cell synthesis require glucose, and they require a constant supply; the brain can't store glucose. It uses 20% of the body's total glucose at any given time.

-Glucose can be synthesized from amino acids and glycerol. However, gluconeogenesis via amino acids usually means breaking down body proteins (lean tissue). To make enough glucose from glycerol, you'd have to eat a crapload of triglycerides; glycerol only is only 5% of the average triglyceride's weight.

-I suppose it is possible to make all the glucose you need from amino acids, but, since it's an inefficient source of energy, you'd be taxing your body a lot ... and just to supply your brain with glucose, let alone perform a workout. Also, although high protein diets have not been proven to inflict liver or kidney damage, they have not been disproven yet either. There's still a lot of question about the long-term effects of high-protein intake.

-Glucose is used to synthesize amino acids.

So maybe you could live without carbohydrates but life would suck because (1) your body would be always working in overdirve to supply the brain and red blood cell synthesis with glucose, (2) workouts would likely not be as good as they could be, (3) you'd run the risk of dehydration since high protein diets require greater water intake, (4) you could potentially be harming your liver and kidneys, (5) high fat intake usually = high saturated fat intake = high LDL cholesterol, (6) you might compromise synthesis of certain amino acids, (7) you'd never be able to poop because you'd be getting no fiber (could lead to diverticulitis and/or colon cancer), (8) you wouldn't be receiving all the other benefits of carbohydrate foods (vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, lowered cholesterol via soluble fiber, etc.).

The latter two points were already mentioned, but they could use repeating. I hate to think that people would become so obsessed with body image that they ignore carbs, which are indispensible for good health. While I know that bodybuilders don't try to maintain ridiculously low body fat for an extended period of time, for people who might try such a thing by eliminating carbohydrates, a whole lot of good 4% body fat will be when they're dead.


Grains are plants.

Sugars are monosaccharides and disaccharides. Disaccharides are made from monosaccharides, so they are not essential, which leaves only glucose, fructose, and galactose that our digestive systems process. I'm pretty sure our bodies only have enzymes for splicing these monosaccharides for absorption.

Are you referring to glycolipids and glycoproteins?

What is "sad?"


i know grains are plants,however i do subscribe to the theory that our digestive tracts are not equipped to process raw grains.from everything i have found,we lack the enzymes to break down raw grain.so some form of processing must take place be it soaking,sprouting etc.the process' that we have either lead to overly processed flours that contain little to no nutrient content,or intact whole grains that contain phytates that bind to minerals and render them useless.plus if you're one of those ppl that believe in the alkaline/acidic debate,grains are very acidic.

the term i'm refering to is glyconutrition or glyconutrients.i know very little about this.just kinda relaying what i read.

SAD+standard american diet


I'm not sure of the exact mechanisms involved, but I'm incliined to agree that our digestive tracts have a hard time digesting raw grains. My theory is that it's because the fibers have not been hydolyzed or softened.

Nonetheless, just because we can't digest grains well in their raw form, doesn't mean that they shouldn't be eaten at all. We don't digest eggs well in thier raw form, either. So what do we do? Cook them. Cooking, soaking, and sprouting are not always evil processing methods. Cooking some foods, such as legumes, makes them nutritionally sound for humans to eat. The protein is more available because protease inhibitors are destroyed, the starch is gelatinized, and potentially toxic substances such as hemagglutinins that make red blood cells stick together, are destroyed, as well. Sprouts are highly concentrated sources of vitamins and minerals.

Refined grains suck, I agree, but whole grains are still fine to eat and should be eaten. Phytates do bind to minerals, but so do oxalates in rhubarb and spinach. Surely, you wouldn't reject spinach (a "superfood")because of oxalate. Some fibers bind to minerals, too, but of course, fiber is essential for digestional health. In addition, minerals themselves interact with each other; high sodium causes both calcium and sodium to be excreted when sodium levels are high, and magnesium and phosphorous bind to each other in the digestive tract. No one would avoid these minerals just because they react with each other. The risk of mineral deficiency from all of these circumstances is minimal when mineral intake is adequate.

As for the acidity of grains: Grains are by far not the only acidic food. Fruits, milk and milk products, and other proteins are acidic, too, but none of them should be excluded from the diet on that basis. It all comes down to balancing the acids and bases. (By the way, did anyone else wonder how fruit juices are listed as basic in the chart in Berardi's "Covering You Acids and Bases?" Did I miss something? I've tested the pH of several of those juices myself, and they were all acidic.)

As a further note to ponder, grains are the staple in the diet of most populations. They supply the majority of kcalories and half the protein (gasp!). Like it or not, they have made the continuation of humankind possible.


Brain function.