Carbs Rock: 5 Carbs You Need (and 2 you don’t)

sarah cuff Carb-Loading for Runners 2 Comments

In my practice and in general I know many people who were, or even still currently are, a bit afraid of carbohydrates. Some… A lot afraid.


I totally get it. Once upon a time (8 years ago) I also harboured a severe carb phobia. I counted them incessantly to ensure I didn’t go over my daily quota (which was a gut wrenchingly small number).

Here’s what happened to me when I didn’t give my body, brain and muscles enough carbs:

  • I became injured to the point where I had to give up running (for the rest of that year and I didn’t heal until I ate enough carbs and healthy foods again);
  • My hormonal system fell exponentially out of balance and cortisol levels shot through the roof – a lot of my hair fell out and I suffered from chronic excessive sweating and hormonal acne;
  • I was energy depleted and therefore tired, cranky and generally no fun to be around;
  • My digestive system stopped working properly, rendering me with painful and embarrassing GI issues (basically, undiagnosed IBS);
  • I was insanely hungry which led to even more insane cravings which led to bulimic behaviour (which ended abruptly once I chose to eat carbs again);
  • I eventually became clinically depressed (which took nearly a year to recover from).

For the record, I also lost weight and looked good in a bikini (but please trust me when I say, it was NOT worth it).

The (MUCH) healthier and happier way to lose weight (aka get beach ready or reach your racing weight) is not through carb restriction (or calorie counting). It’s through using nutrition strategically, eating and enjoying carbs in the right forms and at the right times throughout out the day (practicing nutrient timing).

Here are 5 carbs you’ll want to ensure you are including in your nutrition plan to run strong, recover well and reach/maintain your racing weight:

  1. Bananas (and/or dates) and all other fruit;
  2. Starchy Veggies (and all veggies);
  3. Yams & Potatoes;
  4. Legumes (beans and lentils);
  5. Quinoa & Rolled Oats (and rice, millet, buckwheat, amaranth and teff).

Bonus: honey and/or maple syrup – use these natural sweeteners in moderation instead of processed sugars.

— FAQs —

  • Q- Can you eat too much of any one of the above carb sources?
  • A- Yes, inevitably too much of anything (even if it’s good) can be a bad thing.
  • Q- Are all the above carbs good for everyone?
  • A- No, this is a general list – each person is unique with their own unique requirements.

Of course, carbs didn’t get a bad rap for no reason at all. Here are 2 carbs you generally want to avoid:

  1. Sugar (glucose-fructose, processed sugars, white sugar, brown sugar, etc) such as in boxed cereals, granola bars, protein bars, cakes, cookies, pastries, donuts, muffins, cupcakes, pies and even found in crackers, bread and bagels;
  2. Processed wheat products and processed gluten-free products (bread, bagels, pastries, cookies, cakes, muffins, crackers, pasta, cereals).

I know, I know… I said two… And then listed off pretty much every food on the face of this planet. My apologies. However, please let me clarify. Generally, it’s not a great idea to eat the mass produced versions of these foods. However, there are some great products out there that are great to incorporate into a natural, whole food and plant strong nutrition plan, such as DSC_0019Mary’s Crackers (Mary’s Gone Crackers in the USA) and Ezekiel bread (sprouted grain breads with no added sugars). And you can make your own healthier version quite easily also, such as:

Of course there’s an exception to every rule. Energy gels are forms of quickly absorbed sugars and are definitely processed. While you are actually (literally) on the run, this is exactly what your body requires, and the one time where eating more processed carbs is okay. That said, you can make some pretty good (albeit not as conveniently packaged) honey or brown rice syrup based homemade gels (such as this espresso energy gel).

By including healthy forms of carbs strategically into your personalized running nutritional plan and avoiding the processed sugars and grains, you’ll run strong and healthy while achieving racing weight goals.

Eat clean, run strong, be well… Cheers, Sarah

Sarah J Cuff, RHN

PS. Check Marg Coe’s amazing transformation story. She is a marathon runner who ran the Big Sur Marathon this past April 27th – and had the time of her life doing so. When she first Imagecame to see me she was feeling tired, bloated, slow and injured. Very quickly she noticed her sugar cravings and afternoon sluggishness fade away. Her waist reappeared! Best of all, her injury healed and she felt herself becoming leaner, lighter and stronger. Upon finishing Big Sur, she leapt joyfully across the finish line – never before had she been able to work so hard during a marathon, which she directly attributes to eating well and training smart. Click here to read more. 

Comments 2

  1. I’ve been curious about the paleo diet, but can’t bring myself to try it because I love my carbs. Thanks for this post, it’s reinforcing my balanced diet approach!

    1. Post

      Totally great to be curious – many ‘diets’ out there have things we can learn from them! I’m with you in loving my carbs… But I like to practice nutrient timing too, meaning I tend to eat them earlier in the day, and then eat more Paleo type dinners – lots of veggies with a protein source 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.