Are Carbs Bad?

In the world of marketing one of the goals is to make the message memorable. While this is helpful for the marketer it isn't always helpful for the audience.

One such instance is the notion that "Carbs are Bad." It's not that simple. This mentality comes from the "Low Carb" diet camp (which is who we would align ourselves with). The confusion comes in because of a failure to define terms.

What does "low" mean?

If you're going to eat a low carb diet what does that mean? Low as compared to what? Compared to a moderate carb diet? Compared to a high carb diet? What standard are we looking at here?

Let's begin by looking at the average American diet. We currently have an epidemic of type-2 diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol in this country (and it's spreading around the world). The average American consumes nearly 120lbs of sugar each year. That's 54,360 grams or about 148 grams of sugar a day. Sugar only accounts for about 1/3 of the carbohydrate in an average American diet. So you're looking at about 400-500g of carbohydrate on average.

As a stark contrast, we recommend a diet that is 40% carbohydrate, 30% protein and 30% fat but that ends up only being about 200 grams of carbohydrate per day for a large active male. This diet could be considered "high carb" as it is predominantly carbohydrate but is still 1/2 the amount of the average American, so in that sense, it's low carb.

See how that could get confusing? Marketers don't worry about clarifying the message and using the same definitions as everyone else. They only care about getting you on board with what they are selling.

We're all different

Professional athletes that train 3-4 hours a day that include heavy weight lifting and high-intensity need to eat a much higher amount of carbs than the rest of us. Throughout their training sessions, they deplete and need to replenish the fuel in their muscles. Without the carbs, they don't have the fuel to train as hard as they need, in order to be successful in their sport.

This is where taking your nutrition advice from your favorite athlete's Instagram profile isn't going to be a good choice. The needs of us regular folks are quite a bit different.


In short, the answer to the question is ... no. Carbs are not bad, but as we discussed in the opening it depends upon the source and the quantity. Avoid sugar at all costs and keep your consumption to about 1 gram per pound of lean muscle in your body. If you don't know what that is, then get a simple body fat measurement. Subtract your body fat in pounds from your total weight to get a rough measurement of lean mass.

There is a lot that could be said about the role of carbohydrate in our diet. Some diets even remove them almost altogether. But it is safe to say that the marketing of "Carbs are Bad" isn't the full picture. Getting educated about what you're eating and how much of it is appropriate is always a wise decision.

Now go live better.