Coaches Corner: Carb Questions

At some point in time, all competitors – physique, bodybuilding, fitness, figure or bikini – are forced to take a hard look at what they are eating to enhance the way they look on stage.

For this very reason, the best athletes almost always hire a diet coach to help them decipher which dietary strategy is going to be the best for them. And inevitably there is a focus on how much carbohydrates are enough and how much is too much in order to achieve the right look on stage. Carbohydrates are the cleanest and easiest burning energy source our bodies have. When you eat any kind of foods that contain carbs in them, your body will almost always prefer to burn them over fats.

So what is the best strategy? What are the consequences of too many carbs or too few? Before you address those questions we must understand some basics about carbohydrates.

Q: Why not eliminate carbs completely?
Many diet coaches use this method to burn fat off their competitors. However, in many instances this can lead to a physique that looks over-dieted and often times somewhat emaciated. If you don’t have enough carbs in your diet, your workouts can suffer, lethargy can set in. These types of diets can result in greater instances of metabolic damage, and a continual slowing of your metabolism can occur. Which will make it harder and harder for you to get – and stay – in shape.

Not to mention, at some point these same competitors must re-introduce carbs to their bodies the last several days before a contest so that they can carb up those now lean muscles and have that tight, round and full look on stage that every competitor wants. And because most people must take twelve to sixteen weeks to diet and prepare for a contest, this re-introduction of carbs to a now carb-sensitive body can often lead to unpredictable results on stage. That isn’t to say that a ketogenic or low carb approach can’t work for many people, it just means there is often more than one path to Nirvana!

Q: What about higher carb diets?
High carbohydrate diets can often lead to fat loss stalling, dietary plateaus, and a soft physique that isn’t quite ready for the stage. Not to mention, there is an increased insulin spike after you eat any significant amount of carbs, and fat loss can slow way down when you have too much insulin due to a temporary but immediate shutdown of growth hormone production. During a contest prep, your main goal is to refine and burn away as much fat as needed to reveal a clean, lean, hard, and well-defined physique. Too many carbs in your diet and all of the sudden your body stops burning fats and prefers to burn those carbs instead, thus leading you to show up contest day simply not lean enough.

However, the right amount of carbs in your dietary strategy can also help you hold onto lots of hard earned muscle, create the round, full look to your muscles so desired by physique athletes, and can help you lose fat at faster rates often times than eliminating carbs completely.

Find out what works for you
No matter what strategy you employ there will be consequences, good and bad. The best approach for you often means going through a discovery process with a professional diet coach or simply dieting and experimenting with different approaches until you find the most effective one for you.

So what kind of approaches can you consider? Here is a list of a few of the most popular ones:

• Ketogenic or low to no carb strategy
• Moderate to higher carb strategy with decreasing carb levels throughout diet
• Carb cycling (this tends to be the most favorable for the most people)
• Low carb diet with re-feeds or some higher carb meals/days

Your dietary strategy has lots of options, pitfalls, and potential hazards, but the correct strategy can lead you to victory! Choosing the right carbohydrate strategy for you may take some trial and error, but it is a process that every competitive athlete must go through in order to achieve consistent results. No matter what strategy you choose understanding the consequences will be critical to your success.



Tad Inoue has been a competitive bodybuilder for over 27 years. He has dedicated his life’s work and studies to bodybuilding, figure, physique and bikini competition prep and coaching. Tad has a background in nutrition, exercise sports science, and biochemistry. Tad coaches professional and amateur athletes all over the world, helping each of them prepare for competition and offseason.

For more information about Tad the Diet Coach, visit his website at or find him on Facebook at or twitter at