Knowing how to burn carbs and energy as a whole, is the first step to creating a sustainable diet plan.
Often times, people happen to consume something “bad” and look for ways to “burn it” afterwards, so it won’t stack up as fat.
And while that seems logical, let us tell you something… You CAN eat burgers and ice cream EVERYDAY and still lose weight or gain muscle at an optimal rate.
In this article, we are going to tell you how to burn carbs and more importantly, how to shift your nutrition paradigm so that you can create a sustainable nutrition plan.
Nutrition 101: How to burn carbs with diet
Just like every other living being on the planet, humans require energy to function properly and more importantly, to maintain weight.
For us, that energy comes from food and is measured in “Calories”.
A “Calorie” is a unit of measurement, used to describe how much energy a certain food or drink contains.
Each and every edible food has a different energy content and properties, which depend on the ratio of the 3 macronutrients that the given product contains.
You might have heard the word “macros”.
This word stands for “macronutrients”, which are nutrients that the body needs for a variety of functions.
There are 3 main macronutrients that make up the calorie content of a given food, namely, carbohydrates, proteins and fats.
Let us briefly define each one, so that you can get a better grasp of nutrition so that you know how to burn carbs.
Since this is the topic of the article, we will start off by defining what carbohydrates are.
Carbohydrates are essentially all the starches, sugars and fibers, found mostly in grains, beans, legumes, vegetables and some dairy products.
This macronutrient contains 4 calories per gram and when metabolized, it turns to blood glucose.
Any excess blood glucose gets stored in the muscles and liver for later use, in the form of “glycogen”.
Though often demonized, quality carbohydrates are essential to a healthy diet, as the body uses them for a variety of functions.
As a matter of fact, this is also the best source of energy for the body, especially during high-intensity performance.
The recommended daily amount of carbs for active trainees is 2-4 grams per lb. of bodyweight.
Interesting read: Low carb diet for bodybuilding. Is it better?
Spoiler alert: Carbohydrates won’t make you fat!
Secondly, we have proteins, which are the most important macronutrient in your daily menu.
Why is that? Well, simply because technically your entire body is made up of different proteins.
Functionally, protein (4 calories per gram) is used by the body for the recovery and regeneration of different tissues and enzymes, as well as the maintenance of lean body mass (LBM).
Lean body mass (LBM) is every tissue in the body except fat, including bone tissue, muscles, organs, etc.
Think of it this way – When you train, you break down muscle protein and afterwards, you need to recover and supercompensate.
The interesting thing? Proteins are essentially bonded amino acids and there are essential amino acids which the body can’t produce on its own.
THIS is the reason why deriving enough protein from foods that contain essential amino acids is… You guessed it, essential!
If you consistently deprive your body of proteins, you are going to make it weaker and more prone to diseases.
The optimal daily protein intake forms at 0.8-1 gram per lb. of body weight.
Last but not least, we have fatty acids, also known as “fats”, which are a very important component of your daily nutrition.
Just like proteins, there are “essential fatty acids”, which the body can’t produce on its own and needs to get from outer sources.
Functionally, the body uses fats to absorb nutrients, regulate body temperature and more importantly, sustain proper endocrine (hormonal) function.
Studies have shown that men who deprive their bodies of dietary fat, inevitably have lower testosterone levels.
Low testosterone inevitably leads to a flurry of unpleasant side effects, such as low sex drive, poor recovery, lack of motivation and sometimes even depression.
This is exactly why, at least 20% of your total daily energy intake, should come from fats.
The recommended daily fat intake is 0.35-0.45g per lb. of bodyweight.
Energy in humans
Alright, we learned more about how we get energy and what it is made up of… But how does the body actually use the energy? This is important if you want to know how to burn carbs.
Well, think of it this way – There is always an explosion of chemical reactions in your body… Even when you’re at rest!
Following that logic, you can easily conclude that you can’t isolate carbs and burn only that energy resource.
Your body is constantly using a variety of substances, to ultimately maintain homeostasis and keep you alive!
Homeostasis is the tendency of your body towards a balanced, stable internal state. All living beings need to regulate that internal environment, in order to properly process energy and information.
Nevertheless, there are certain energy cycles which the body uses, to provide energy for different types of activities.
So let’s talk about energy metabolism during training and find out the answer to “How to burn carbs?”
The Energy Molecule – ATP
Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is the main energy molecule for all living beings and is in fact, the purest source of biological energy.
The body uses ATP to provide energy for a variety of processes, including but not limited to:
- Muscle contraction
- Nerve impulse propagation
- Chemical synthesis
However, during intense physical activity, ATP gets depleted rather quickly, due to the fact it is stored in limited amounts.
Nevertheless, the body is a smart machine and has its secondary energy reserve – Creatine phosphate (CP).
During the first 5 seconds of intense muscular activity, the body uses up its ATP reserves.
Then, to regenerate ATP, the body uses creatine phosphate and grants energy for another 10 seconds of activity.
But what happens after that 15-second mark when the body is out of ATP & CP?
The body burns carbs!
After you’re out of ATP & CP, intensity naturally drops and the body starts looking for ways to grant energy for sustained activity.
This is EXACTLY when you start burning carbohydrates for energy.
Through a process called “Glycolysis”, the body gets the stored carbohydrates (glycogen) into the energy cycle, to ultimately regenerate ATP.
The more the activity continues, the more the body transitions into an aerobic mode, where it uses oxygen to release energy from stored carbohydrates.
Do you burn carbs during exercise?
As you just learned – Yes, absolutely!
The body uses carbohydrates as the main source of fuel, when the task at hand is providing energy for moderate and high-intensity output.
And though that is the case, you are never 100% depleted of carbohydrates at the end of a weightlifting workout.
Nevertheless, resistance training & cardio afterwards, are your best bet when you’re looking to build an aesthetic physique and burn off some carbs.
Note that prolonged cardio sessions should be done AFTER weight lifting, as you’d otherwise perform suboptimally in your strength workout, due to decreased energy levels.
Can You Burn Carbs Off By Walking?
If you don’t know much about nutrition, you’ve probably asked yourself “How can I burn off the carbs I just consumed with as little effort as possible?”.
Well, unfortunately, low intensity exercise doesn’t really burn carbohydrates and it burns a small amount of calories overall.
Low intensity exercise is primarily fueled by fat, which is stored in fat cells.
The more you increase the intensity of the exercise, the more your body starts relying on stored carbohydrates to fuel that activity.
But what is the ONE thing that everyone seems to miss, which leads to questions like “How to burn carbs so they won’t stick?”.
The answer is… Energy balance.
Calories in VS. Calories out
As we mentioned early on, you can literally consume junk food on the daily basis and still optimize your results.
The problem is that everyone thinks of nutrition in a binary way – It’s either this, or that.
Everyone, including professionals, has at some point, gone to the extremes.
The secret? Knowing your limits!
As you already know, your body requires a certain amount of energy (calories) daily, to sustain its vital processes AND WEIGHT!
What exactly does this mean for you?
It means that if you consume less, or as many calories as you BURN, you won’t need to know “How to burn carbs”, simply because from a thermodynamic point of view, that energy (carbs) has no reason to stack on you as fat.
Said otherwise – You will ONLY gain fat if you give the body more energy than it needs! You will ONLY lose fat, if you give the body LESS energy than it needs!
The body burns carbs to fuel moderate & high intensity activity, such as weight lifting, or prolonged cardio sessions.
During low-intensity exercise like walking, the body primarily uses its stored fat, to grant energy for the activity.
Ultimately, what you should pay attention to, is your energy input vs. energy output.
Do not demonize ANY macronutrient or food, just find your balance!
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