Are You Eating Enough Carbs?

In the 90’s it was all about low fat diets.

Then it was all about going low carb to lose fat.

I tried both approaches and they didn’t get me the results I wanted.

In the beginning of my training I followed the low fat approach because I thought fats are “bad”. My testosterone levels went to whack because of this.

Later on, I tried the low carb approach and I lost a great amount of fat, but my training stalled because:

When you train hard you NEED to eat enough carbs to support recovery and muscle gains.

I assume that most of you that are serious about defeating your skinny-fat genetics are training hard most days of the week. To support your training you absolutely need a sufficient carb intake.

I’m NEVER Going On a Low Carb Diet Again

In late 2012 I experimented with a low carb diet. This low carb diet got me to my lowest body-fat ever in no time; I lost something like 10-12 lbs in a month even though I ate 2-3 lbs of red meat and 8-10 eggs every single day.

I got very lean, but at the same time I was “small”, weak, fatigued and I had no sex drive. I remember that people commented on my lack of size and that my head started looking big in comparison to my body. I got my testosterone levels tested during this experiment, and guess what: they went to whack.

Also, despite going from 190 lbs to 177 lbs I didn’t improve my performance on chin ups.

Usually performance on bodyweight exercises should improve but in this case I lost 13 lbs without adding a single repetition to my chin ups.

What did I do after getting those comments and evaluating my symptoms? What every sane man would do: I started eating balanced meals again and ate my way up to 194 lbs in a month.

I definitely carried more bodyfat at 194 lbs but I felt better, looked muscular instead of skinny and started progressing again in my training. See the change below:

low carb

Since December 28 I’ve stuck to pretty much the same way of eating. I eat what I want, when I want. It happens to be that I rarely crave junk food or candy now, and I don’t go out to drink that often anymore, so I just eat what I need throughout the day without getting fat.

I’ve done this for 9 months now, and the results are that I’ve gotten leaner, stronger and more muscular – all without obsessing over finding the new secret diet that doesn’t exist.

Low carb is probably the MOST effective way at losing body-fat fast, but what’s the point in losing body-fat fast if you feel like crap, can’t train hard and look “flat” on all days of the week except that one day where you do a carb refeed? I don’t see it. All I know for now is that I’m never going to do a low carb diet again.

Ok, Low Carb is Bad… Should I do High Carb?

No. Stop thinking about training and diet in EXTREMES. You need a bit of everything to feel, look and perform good. If you eat high carb every single day, chances are you won’t lose fat since a lot of skinny-fat guys eat too many carbs. However, this doesn’t mean that you should switch to the other extreme and go low carb.

Instead, start with a balanced diet that has a bit of everything. Once you have that, eat slightly more carbs on training days (especially after your workout) since that’s when you need them, and slightly less on days that you don’t train hard. This approach works for me, and chances are it will also work for you.

When you train hard +4 days a week, your body needs a good amount of carbs every single day – especially if you want to gain muscle.

If fat loss is your priority, then you can reduce the carbs and perhaps go low carb a few days a week, but once you have a reasonable body fat level (visible 4 pack in good lighting), get carbs back into your diet and gain some quality muscle in the right places.

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Comments

  1. Alex Christian says:

    Also, sorry for another question before you responded to the first one,

    but I’ve been doing your workouts and eating right for the last 3 weeks and have seen no progress :/

    Have not added a single diamond pushup (been doing 12 everytime, and will keep doing sets of less until failure) and have only been able to do 2 chinups everytime.

    What am I doing wrong??
    All foods I eat are extremely healthy, only eating 1 cheat a meal, not drinking at all as well.

    • Oskar Faarkrog, ISSA Certified Personal Trainer says:

      Try to take a week off, reduce workout frequency to 3 times per week and stop 1-2 reps short of failure on every set. You might have done too much and thereby you didn’t recover between workouts

  2. Alex Christian says:

    Oskar, I know you are not too big on the idea of counting calories, etc. But this is what I am currently eating everyday (healthy foods), let me know if this is okay, or if I need more protein, fats, carbs, etc.

    Thanks!

    Calories: 2275
    Protein 220
    Carbs 200
    Fat 97

    • Oskar Faarkrog, ISSA Certified Personal Trainer says:

      I would decrease the protein to 130-150 grams and allocate the rest to carbs and fat

  3. What is your opinion on ”clean” carb backloading ? I am a huge biochemistry nerd and I am hellbent on experimenting with it. If you dont know what it is, the TLDR version is eat protein+fat earlier in the day, train afternoon-evening with no carbs preworkout, then eat protein-carbs the rest of the day. Reasoning is mostly the insulin resistance of muscle and fat tissue. Do you think it would be useful for a skinny fat guy or is the extra complication unnecessary ?
    I just would appreciate your opinion too, since you look more of a ”pragmatist” and thus not blinded by theoretic ideas or dogma.

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Joseph,

      I like to eat fruit for breakfast. Just a small amount of pineapple or a glass of green juice “wakes me up” and gives me a huge energy boost in the morning so I can think clearly.

      However, I know people are different, so this may not be necessary for you.

      I suggest you experiment to find out what’s best for you.

      Try it out for minimum 1 week, track training progress, track measurements/bodyweight and make a diary of your mood before going to bed.

      Alternatively, try eating a small amount of carbs to your pre-workout meals in the form of fruit or juice(s). Sometimes the extremes do not work for us, but once you add a small amount of something things get much better.

  4. Hi Oskar, just a question about this one “I started eating balanced meals again and ate my way up to 194 lbs in a month.” after that bulk did you cut back? I think those are just water or carbs did you burn them?

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      After that bulk I’ve stayed around the same bodyweight for almost 2 years, but I carry more muscle now and less fat.

      A lot of it was due to the higher carb intake yes, but that just proves that going low carb may not be all that great. Low carb diets make you look very flat, and are not sustainable for people who want to add muscle mass.

  5. Hey oskar, im 22 143 pounds 5.10 and skinny fat I seem to be gaining lots of weight on my face and stomach I eat about 150 grams of protein, 280 grams of carbs and about 80 grams of fat, altogether eating about 2.500 calories a day.I also train 4 times a week. I dont know what to do as i think im doing it wrong as, please help as its really frustrating.

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      If you aren’t losing fat, decrease calories. 2500 calories is quite a lot on a cut if you’re just 143 lbs.

  6. Well said.. There is no miracle! Just base your carbs around your workouts. Rest days, have more fat and protein. You will soon figure out how much you need to eat to gain muscle and not fat!

  7. Thank you for the great website dude. I’ve been having same problem being skinny fat fella doing various thing with little/ no result. Only thing that’s been working is the low carb diet. I loose weight like a champ on it. But then you say you should eat carbs. So do you think I should cut the carbs and loose fat until I’m 12% BF (I’m around 20%) or should i eat carbs and train hard?

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Glad you like it Sean!

      I don’t like low carbs because it made me look flat, I felt like shit and I lost strength. With that said, everyone is different and if you’re losing weight with low carbs then perhaps that’s the way to go. What diets did you do before low carbs and what were your results with those?

      • I tried Pierre Ducan’s diet that is you cycle day of meat/day of rice,beans/day of bread,pasta,pizza/day of fruit. Needless to say it was hard i was starving with little results.
        Do you suggest i keep on dieting till im 12%bf or start traing in the meantime(adding carbs)?

        • Oskar Faarkrog says:

          I don’t know that diet, but it doesn’t sound like a diet I would be able to run while I’m training hard. I suggest you diet down to 12%, while keeping carb intake moderate. Also, try to avoid wheat, and get your carbs through other sources such as rice. I noticed that many skinny-fat guys have problems with wheat.

  8. So how many carbs should you be getting in?

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      It depends on a lot of factors. I usually start my meals with a protein/fat source, then fill up on carbs. I don’t count my macros so I can’t tell how much I eat.

      • Hi Oskar, so I been keeping track of my macros, and I hit my proteins and fats on point, but cant never hit my carbs. I always fall very short, so why do I continue to be skinny fat? Should I be losing alot of fat too? Thanks!

        • Oskar Faarkrog says:

          Hi Frank,

          You don’t go from skinny-fat to ripped “just like that”. It takes time – in my case it took years.

          What is your current goal? Is it fat loss or muscle gain? Are you progressing towards your goal?

          • Is there any way to do both, gain muscle while losing fat? I heard some pros say to build a solid muscle foundation, then cut….and I heard others to cut lean, then build muscle. Whats ur take on this? Thanks again for ur help.

  9. Amazing progress and article but I’m just wondering, shouldn’t skinny fat people clean bulk slowly and gain only about 2lbs per month so it won’t be mostly fat?

    If you were skinny fat before, how did you manage to gain nearly 20lbs in just a month with it being mostly muscle? I was aiming to gain 4lbs every month but every time I do that, I ended up being skinny fat and back to cutting so I really want to do it correctly now once I get leaner.

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Thanks Jon.

      Skinny-fat people should get skinny first. Once you’re skinny you have “room” to gain some weight without gaining fat. I’ll write an article about bulking soon. All I can say now is that there’s more than 1 way to do it, and the one you mentioned is good if you are willing to calculcate macros and calories.

      If you are referring to my before picture in this article, I wasn’t skinny-fat in it. I was very lean though because I ate a low carb diet. Once I got carbs back in my diet, I regained a lot of water weight and then I trained super hard during that month and added some muscle to my frame. I don’t know how much of it was muscle, but definitely not 20 lbs.

  10. Hi Oskar,

    I think it also depends on your adrenal situation.
    My saliva cortisol levels are below normal all day long.
    My sleep is disturbed as i spontaneously wake up every night at 3.00 am.

    This probably means I have a sort of adrenal exhaustion and a hypoglycemic crisis during the night.

    If that is the problem, which is common in “skinny fat” people, a high carb meal after the workout would be a recipe for a disaster.

    Maybe would be better to have a complete meal, in which you mix your carbs with some fat and proteins to slow digestion and to avoid a large insulin spike.

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Damn, waking up like that must be awful.

      Luckily I have good cortisol levels, so I haven’t experienced those problems.

      You’re right though, complete meals are usually the best way to go if you’re in doubt. I have at least 2 complete meals everyday.

  11. Great article.

    I know a guy at the gym that has lost a significant amount of weight on a low carb diet. He is now an average weight, but he looks “soft” as in absolutely no muscular definition.

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Thanks Aaron, I believe low carb diets are effective to cut down for a competition or something where you need to be below 10 % bodyfat, but they are not a sustainable long term solution if you want to progress in your training.

  12. Sup!

    I really enjoyed reading your article.
    Some of my friends talk about “cheat-meals”, how does this affect your diet and training? I mean is it especially bad or good?

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      I don’t like the term “cheat meal” too much since it’s negative. I try not to obsess about it too much, I cook +80 % of the meals I eat so when I do eat out or order food I get what I want without thinking about it as a “cheat meal”.

      It can be great to have a few high calorie meals a week if you’re doing fat loss for a long time, since it’s not good for the body to be in a caloric deficit every single day. Having those high calorie meals (or cheat meals) once or twice a week can be great during fat loss since they will enable you to train harder and thereby maintain (or increase) your strength. Ideally, you will put them after your workout since your body will be primed to absorb the nutrients better, but don’t stress it too much.

      • Super duper, now this definitely makes feel better, since i find it hard myself not to eat these high-calorie meals every now and then. What do you usually eat as a high-calorie meal?

        • Oskar Faarkrog says:

          It really depends on what I crave, however one of my favorites is to eat a normal meal and then have a high calorie shake with peanut butter, bananas and strawberries at the end of the meal. This was I can easily shovel down +2000 quality calories in one sitting.

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