If you want to be able to skate as long as possible, eat quality foods and fuel your body with the nutrients in fruits, veggies and quality protein sources.
– Nick Dompierre
carbs & skateboarding.
Are carbohydrates good? Are they bad?! Is low carb going to help your skating? Should you conduct a health ritual and set fire to all your cookies and bread as you dance around them chanting? Carbs have been on an emotional rollercoaster for many years; stuck in a battle they didn’t ask for, but even though humans like to see things in black and white, the case for carbs isn’t so simple.
In this article we’re going deep into the world of carbs, we’re going to go over why they’re essential if you want to skate and feel as good as you could, why you might be messing up your carb choices and how to get on top of your carb game so it’s optimised to help you skate and how you feel.
are carbs essential?
First off, can you survive with no carbs? Well, actually, yes. They’re technically not as essential as protein and fat, because in low-carb situations like if you’re starving or on a high-fat, low-carb “ketogenic diet”, your body will either make all the carbs it needs from fats and proteins, or swap over to prefer an entirely different source of energy called “ketones”, made from fats. But if you skate regularly at a moderate to high intensity, research shows that going low-carb will probably result in some loss in strength and power. So if you’re after “top performance”, low-carb probably won’t be the best choice for skating. On top of that, most people aren’t following a ketogenic diet so this article is going to be focused on just a regular balanced diet.
Alright, so why do you need carbs?! Well they’re so important your brain gobbles up about 130 grams of them everyday! All that energy wasted on you thinking about what tricks you can do on your little wooden toy and why you didn’t get many likes on your last insta clip, what a waste of nature right!? They also contribute to a load of structural things in your body and other compounds that keep your body functioning, but what you’ll probably care most about is that they’re one of the main energy sources for the actual tricks you do when you’re out on your plank.
Different energy sources provide different amounts of energy at different speeds - fat provides energy slower and therefore powers slower, less powerful movements, like cruising or standing around in between tricks. Carbs on the other hand - and specifically a simple carb called glucose (which we’ll get to soon) - provide a lot of energy quickly, meaning they can power faster more powerful movements like actually doing tricks. The more powerful a trick or movement, the more energy it uses up - popping over a coconut requires less energy than popping over a Shetland pony for example. The difference in speed that fat and carbs provide energy is one of the reasons why a low-carb diet probably isn’t as optimal for moderate to higher intensity sessions. All the energy systems are actually always active (4 a's m8), but the body will favour one of the systems based on the intensity and duration of the thing you're doing.
The drawback of using carbs as energy is that in the moment they can only power about 60-90secs of intense skating before you’ll have to slow down or take a break, before you can go at a similar intensity again. This is due to waste products accumulating from the breakdown of carbs, making the energy systems literally unable to supply energy as fast as you’re asking them to. These waste products also create that temporary burning sensation in your muscles.
Unlike fat, which holds enough energy to power multiple marathons, your carb tank only holds enough energy for about 60-90 mins of intense skating, before you’ll start to fatigue pretty heavily. The reason why carbs are essential for your skating is because the only way for you to restock this energy tank is by eating them from food. But does it actually matter what kind of carbs you’re eating? Yes! Which leads us on to the next section.
what are simple carbohydrates?
Carbs come in many shapes and sizes from single molecules to huge chains of 1000s of molecules, but based on their structure they can be split up into two categories: simple and complex.
Simple carbs, also known as sugars, are the smallest carbs. These tiny little carb nuggets consist of either 1 or 2 simple carbs stuck together. For example, table sugar is a simple carb made up of 2 carb nuggets - glucose and fructose, but they’re both also found in high quantities in different whole foods as well, like fruit.
Because simple carbs are already broken down into these tiny nuggets, they require little digestion and the body can use them almost straight away for energy (think simple to digest). This can make them useful during long sessions - to keep the energy levels up (that’s why I added sugar and honey to the DIY skate energy drink). They can also be useful at the end of your session to restock your energy tank if you plan on skating again within 24 hours (Click the following links for mid-sesh skate nutrition and post-sesh skate nutrition video/articles).
So simple carbs can be a useful tool, but fast digesting energy isn’t something you want all the time and one of the biggest problems with our diets these days is that they’re full of simple carbs in the form of added sugars and sweeteners.
Too much sugar won’t only leave you looking like you’ve brushed your teeth with turmeric toothpaste and a metal toothbrush, but lots of chronic health issues are also related to high amounts of extra sugar that your body might not need in the moment. In general, you should try and get no more than 10% of your daily energy from added simple carbs. Foods full of added simple carbs also often have some other pretty big drawbacks which we’ll get too soon.
what are simple carbohydrates?
Now if you take lots of simple carb nuggets and stick them together you get a chain of carbs known as a “complex carbohydrate”. These are found in many different foods from whole foods to ultra-processed ones: from brown rice to cookies, from quinoa to white bread. Complex carbs require more time to be broken down and digested before they can be used as energy, but in general, the more refined a food is, the faster it will be broken down and the more energy you’ll get from it; not just in the moment but in total as well.
In theory you could get all the energy you need to skate from just table sugar, because at the end of the day, the vast majority of the carbs you stick into your face hole are broken down into the same simple carbs the body uses as energy (mainly glucose). But it’s not all about energy, and eating only table sugar would probably knock off about 30 years of your life, so unless you’re a horse and sugar cubes are all you have, try and eat a bit more variety.
Simple and complex carbs that come from refined foods also have many of the extra healthy nutrients that power your skating and health stripped from them - things like extra vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, water and fiber, and are often replaced with extra shit like lots of salt, trans-fat, flavourings and preservatives, that have the opposite effect on your skating and health. They can also spike your blood sugar, bouncing your energy levels up and down; which is what contributes to the classic crash we’ve all had after eating too much sugary food. In general, whole foods keep your blood sugar relatively stable and provide more consistent energy throughout the day. A bit of stress is good at times and triggers your body to adapt but in general the more you keep it in its optimal working ranges the better your health will be in the moment and in the long run.
So along with making sure you’re not eating way too much, what changes everything is the journey the food takes before it’s used by your body and what other extra nutrients (or not) it has packed in with it. Whole or minimally processed foods work in harmony with your body and give you so much more than just energy, unlike refined or processed ones. This is why you want to try and get the majority of your carbs, and food in general, from whole foods or minimally processed foods. Refined vs whole foods in the next vid.
what the f*#king fiddlesticks is fibre?!
Another category of complex carbs we didn’t really hit on is fibre. Your body can’t break this kind of carb down, so it’s not used for energy, but it does have a lot of extra health benefits; like feeding your gut bacteria, enhancing gut health, and reducing cholesterol. It also increases fullness, and slows digestion down; which contributes to a slower, more consistent release of energy. On top of that it also adds bulk to your turds, so getting enough in your diet can be the difference between explosive slime, and nice, meaty one wipers.
Speaking of slime, the slimy gel-like consistency you get when you add water or milk to oats or chia seeds is thanks to one type of fibre called soluble fibre. This type is found in foods like oats, dried beans, nuts, barley, flax, chia and fruits like oranges, bananas, blueberries, apples, tomatoes, and carrots.
Another type of fibre called insoluble fibre comes from the thick cell walls of plants and doesn’t dissolve in water. This one’s found in foods like celery, root veggies, dark leafy greens, fruit and veggie skin, whole grains, seeds, and nuts.
The daily recommended amount of fibre we should eat is 25 grams, but an optimal amount for many people is closer to 35 grams for women and 48 grams for men. One of the big problems with refined foods is that the process usually gets rid of the fibre, and as a result most people don’t get anywhere near the 25 grams, let alone 35 or 48.
By eating a diet throbbing with variety and getting the majority of your food from mainly whole, minimally processed foods, you should end up naturally getting enough fibre in your diet.
carbs to eat more of.
- whole grain, black & wild rice
- beans & lentils
- steel-cut, rolled oats
- potatoes & sweet potatoes
- whole grain bread, pasta & wraps
- fruit & frozen fruit
carbs to eat some of.
- white rice
- instant oats
- whole grain crackers
- granola bars
- canned or dried fruit
- white bread, pasta & wraps
carbs to eat less of.
- cereal bars & candy
- donuts, cakes, cookies, etc.
- potato chips
- fruit juices
- flavoured milk
- soft drinks
- sports & energy drinks
- honey & syrups
- crackers & biscuits
- anything with 10+ grams of added sugar
how much carb do you need?
So how much carb do you need? Well, there’s no perfect amount that’s going to work for everyone. Carb needs depend on many things like how much you’re skating and how intense your sessions are, how much other exercise you’re doing, body size, muscle mass, age, genetics; many things!
For example, a 68 year old woman learning to shuvit (shout out Elaine Shallcross) is going to need much less carbohydrate than a young buck sk8r boi who’s 20 years old and has regular heavy sessions. Some people are going to thrive on more carbs than average, others on less, and most somewhere in the middle.
Continuing with the hand-size portion methods I used in the other articles on fat and protein, the portion size for carbs is the “cupped hand” - which gives you about 20-30 grams per portion. When figuring out how much carbs you need, a solid place to start is for every meal getting in about 1 cupped handful for women, and 1-2 cupped handfuls for men. If you’re skating a lot you might want to up this amount or add extra meals.
Just mess around with different amounts to see what works best for you. One test you can do is trying these recommendations for 2-4 weeks, and then trying low carbs for 2-4 weeks. Pay close attention to how you feel and skate with each method.
bringing it all together.
So we went through a lot, but it doesn’t have to be complicated! You don’t have to be a health nazi and always think about the exact amounts of the different types of carbs each food contains; the big picture is what’s important. Don’t feel like you can never eat processed or refined foods either, it’s all about balance and what matters is what you’re doing most of the time.
As long as you’re following or at least aiming towards the points below you’ll be on the right track. And remember if you eat like shit, even the smallest change like whole grain bread instead of white once a week is already taking you towards a healthier diet.
Carbohydrates aren’t bad, a shitty diet is bad.
Most people are going to skate and feel better eating carbohydrates.
Humans evolved eating a wide variety of whole foods that contained a wide variety of different carbs - simple, complex and fibre.
Try and get the majority of your carbs from a variety of whole, minimally processed foods. Go for slower digesting, high-fibre carbs most of the time and think of fast digesting carbs as a tool for when you need an energy boost around your sessions or to recover your energy stores for a second session. I’ll put a list of carbs up on the website, including “healthier” fast digesting options you might want to go for around your sessions.
Try different amounts of carbohydrates to see which feels the best to you.