Fitness & Nutrition: Carbs are not the enemy!

In today’s society carbohydrates have received a lot of bad press. “No carbs before Marbs” etc. Carbs are the body’s primary source of fuel. When digested they are converted to glucose to provide energy that allows our body to function properly and provides us with the energy to live our lives day to day. Proteins and fats also provide us with energy but it is not as readily available as that provided by carbohydrates.
Fibre is also a form of carbohydrate. These carbohydrates pass through the intestinal tract intact and help to move waste out of the body. Diets that are low in fibre have been shown to cause problems such as constipation and haemorrhoids and to increase the risk for certain types of cancers such as colon cancer. Diets high in fibre have been shown to decrease risks for heart disease, obesity, and they help lower cholesterol. Foods high in fibre include fruits, vegetables, and whole grain products.
The key is to eat the right types of carbohydrates, in the right amounts, at the right times. This is another topic in itself but today I want to emphasize the dangers of extremely low or no-carb diets, especially for woman.
To help do this I recently spoke to a good friend of mine Cliona O Hanlon. Cliona recently competed in her first natural bodybuilding competition and placed in the top 3. Cliona explained to me the stresses placed on her body from cutting carbohydrates out of her diet leading up to the show.
Having committed to an unusually short ten week competition prep to enter into the female figure category of the NBFI in October just gone, the effect this journey had on my body was astounding to say the least.  Knowing I had cut my prep time considerably short I understood prior to beginning that this was going to be strenuous on my body any which way – Mentally physically emotionally. Having had a fairly flirtatious relationship with the gym previously, I genuinely wanted to see how I could consciously transform my physic in a matter of weeks and to dispel any myths that women who lift weight are all Jodie Marsh protégé. 
The training & diet was like no other road I had walked before but I can honestly say for the first 8 weeks I had never felt more alive I’m my life – my energy levels were higher that had ever been before even though I was training in excess of what would be considered normal (due to my shortage on time) and the diet was fuelling my body adequately to keep up with the rigorous demands it was now under. However in spite of all this I felt phenomenal and more importantly – healthy. 

That is until the carb cut 12 days out from the competition. What I experienced for the final 12 days will remain with me indefinitely and it was the most significant lesson I learned from the whole experience. For 12 days I cycled fish & asparagus & chicken & asparagus 6 times a day
By day 6 I almost collapsed for fatigue in a local coffee shop & had to “emergency carb load” to restore lost energy. At this point any normal person would have taken this weakness as a sign to discontinue but when you’re on a mission nothing will stand between you and your goal – winning. 

Working as a business owner and hairstylist I found my ability to lead a team effectively reach an all time zero – I genuinely had no want to communicate to both staff and clients alike 
I found my concentration levels ridiculously low and found it an effort to even speak to people. 
I could honestly say I reached an all time low at around day 10 and got quite depressed and emotional. Crying and getting upset over petty minor issues that didn’t warrant any discontent. 
My self belief had dwindled and I very nearly pulled out at this stage as I believed I was not really able for the challenge. 

The most shocking aspect of all of this was the devastating effects this carb depletion had on my reproductive system as a female – my cycle completely stopped altogether for 4 months and had only just resumed to normality. 

I had researched all of this information before proceeding on this journey and was aware of all of the effects it would have on my body – but knowing about and living through a situation are two very different situations. 

In my opinion as a woman it is negligent of young girls to set unrealistic goals of being wafer thin by removing a major food & energy source from their diets to the detriment of their future fertility which prolonged sustained absence of this food group can manifest. 

More education & less ignorance is needed in today’s society about this topic. I would not say id never compete again. However, starting and having a family is more of a priority in my life that any title or trophy will ever have
Cliona was under the strict supervision and monitoring of her coaches at all times and the results she achieved were phenomenal. However, it is very clear that when she cut carbs completely from her diet, even for such a short time period, it had a massive impact on her body and its natural functions.
Over the next number of weeks I will discuss different types of carbs, how much to have and when to have them.


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