Do you need to eat carbs?

A few pieces of toast covered in strawberry jam was my pre-training ritual growing up as a middle distance runner. My old man would call it "energy food". The toast and jam would normally be accompanied by some sort of sports drink that would put my Granny into a diabetic coma.

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We need sugar though right? It's our body's preferred fuel source isn't it? If we don't eat carbs won't we be energy-less, muscle-wasting zombies unable to function?

I believed this, and I would bet money most of North America still do.

Here are the facts. Our body needs glucose for two main purposes:

1. Our red blood cells don't contain mitochondria (energy producing engines within our cells) so they required glucose to function

2. About 25% of our brain requires glucose to function.

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Seems as though if we don't eat carbs our red blood cells will die and 75% of our brain will just leak out of our ears. Luckily for us, over millions of years of evolution our bodies have avoided death and/or our brains turning into mush.

When we don't eat carbs or we fast our blood glucose drops which causes insulin to drop. This drop in blood sugar and insulin signals our body to up-regulate fat burning and the creation of ketones. Ketones are a super fuel for your brain and they have many benefits like reducing inflammation and helping regulate hunger.

Ketones can fuel your muscles and 75% of what's needed for your brain. But what about the red blood cells and the other 25% of your brain?

Our bodies produce around 200g of glucose every day whether we eat or not through a process called gluconeogenisis. This is enough to pay off the brain and the red blood cells and have change left over.


The point of this post is not to say you should never eat carbs. It's to say you don't need to eat a bunch of carbs everyday (or even every week) to be healthy, perform well and feel good.

There is a ton of health risks associated with overeating carbs, especially sugar, but none associated with removing them for a while assuming you make up the caloric difference with fat.

It all boils down to this:

There are essential amino acids, essential fatty acids but no essential carbohydrates.