Do You Have These 2 Traits That Could Allow You To Freely Eat Carbs?

I’m excited to re-introduce Kyle Sommer from Achieve Coaching. Kyle is a fellow BioSignature coach, and is also a Poliquin Certified level 2 State Strength Coach.

Read time: 4-5 minutes

Let’s recap what we learned in the first article.  Our main take home points were the different carbohydrates available and their effect on the body and glycogen levels. We also spoke about how exercise should relate to carbohydrate intake. Now you may have noticed that there are other factors that I mentioned that play into determining how many carbs you should eat on a given day, or a given training cycle.  Let’s discuss those now.


In general, there are two types of people that are reading this article.  The first and most common type are people who are actively trying to reduce their body-fat, so the topic is pretty interesting just by that alone.  The other type are those are actively trying to gain muscle mass, but just can’t seem to do it very well. If you put those two people on the same type of diet, you’re going to get pretty much the difference you have in their bodies already: one person’s metabolism slows down and they gain fat, and the other one’s metabolism speeds up beyond belief and they lose fat, or even sometimes muscle tissue! There is no real way to explain this, but it’s just simple fact that some people tolerate carbs better than others.

In the BioSignature Modulation system by Charles Poliquin, we use the subscapular skinfold to detect genetic levels of carb tolerance, and this usually works pretty well. Note that I didn’t say that those people who don’t tolerate them as well should completely avoid them. Those people can still utilize carbohydrates to dramatic effect, and in my opinion, not including them is worse than going cold turkey. That’s in direct opposition to what most of my colleagues practice, and I am fully aware of that fact. I’ll go into more detail on this later on, but for now, just get a grasp on where you might lie on this contiuum of carbohydrate tolerance. For example, I’m close to the midline, but I lie a bit skewed to the carbohydrate side, so I need a bit more of them to be productive. When I did completely low carb, I got fat and weak, but at the same time, I got fat and sluggish when I went completely high carb. So yes, I do need more, but I still have to manipulate them to some degree.


Your bodyfat levels say a lot about what’s going on in your body.  Just by looking at a person, thanks to the BioSignature, I can get a decent grasp on what that person may have problems with in their lifestyle and what their diet might look like – specifically what they are eating too much of.  Given the factors we’ve learned about already, add this into the mix: the lower your bodyfat, the more carbs you can eat and stay lean/get leaner. Your pancreatic hormones like insulin just work better when you are leaner.  Your muscles are the dominant sites for insulin binding, so most of the carbs tend to go there.  And people who are not naturally lean or not naturally carb tolerant probably train pretty damn hard to get that lean, so odds are they are depleting their glycogen – back to the first factors I introduced in the last article.

Tell me if this sounds familiar – someone you know likes aerobics.

A lot.

The treadmill and elliptical are their favorite exercise modalities.  This person, in the interest of losing weight and fat, follows that low fat diet we talked about.  However, this person just can’t seem to get the fat or weight off.  Or, even worse, their fat distribution changes – lean legs, lean arms, gaunt face, but a ring of ugly fat around the midsection.

I will refer again to the BioSignature. I haven’t seen this wrong yet since I learned about it, but the suprailiac skinfold is what Charles calls the “environmental carbs” site.  It’s essentially a measurement of insulin management, or, maybe, insulin mismanagement.  So if a person has a ring of fat around the middle, you can be pretty sure that they are eating too many carbs and they have too much insulin their bloodstream.  Let’s use the person above as an example, and let’s apply all of the factors I have introduced so far to their situation.

First, let’s analyze their training program. Lots of aerobics = not much glycogen burned.  So, we know their workouts don’t need glycogen replenishment, thus they don’t need carbohydrates in their diet.  This person, just due to the fact that they are trying to lose weight, is likely genetically not carb tolerant.  I’m not saying carb tolerant people can’t get fat, but it’s just less likely with the prevalence of sweets and processed foods in the food supply these days.  This person is also not lean, so they need less carbs to lose the fat.  The person also has that lean limbs, chubby midsection effect going on, so it’s likely they are consuming exactly the WRONG type of diet to see results from their training.  If this person went completely low-carb, they’d likely drop a lot of fat immediately.  Of course, it’s definitely not that simple, and when you factor in different training methods and volumes it definitely gets more complex.

Charles always tells us, you must “earn your carbs.”  This is completely true.  Factor #1 was all about how intense your activity is and how much work you do.  More work at a higher percentage of your work threshold means you can eat more carbs.  Period.  Factor #2 is about genetics but also your current condition, and how that dictates your carb allowance. Use the above two factors to fine-tune your intake and you might be amazed at what happens.

What’s your personal experience with adjusting carb ratios based on your level of activity and other factors? Please tell us!

A note from Kat

Until the end of October, whilst I’m living it up on my holiday, I’ll be introducing a series of posts from fellow Personal Trainers, BioSignature coaches, and wellness gurus. These are some of the most inspiring and useful people I know both on and offline, and I trust you’ll enjoy what they have to say. I’ll still be dropping by once a week with my own post and will be in touch via comments and email, so don’t be shy! Read more from Kyle over at Achieve Coaching.

8 responses to “Do You Have These 2 Traits That Could Allow You To Freely Eat Carbs?”

  1. Kathleen says:

    Hi Kyle:
    I’ve found that age and hormonal status complicate things wildly. When I say “age,” I mean it to encompass all the things that accumulate over the years that can start gumming up the metabolism. Such as digestive problems that develop which can prevent nutrients from being absorbed. Plus, food sensitivities and allergies.

    At 55, I weight train intensely 4 days a week. (I competed as a natural BBer 15 years ago.) I might do 2-3 sessions/week, 20 minutes each, of intense interval cardio. I get totally wiped out on these days, but also on days I don’t hit the gym. I see an anti-aging MD who tests me regularly. I have VERY few hormones left, so I supplement with bioidentical test, estro and progesterone, as well as natural thyroid and hydrocortisone (for adrenal burnout–not much cortisol left).

    My doctor is unhappy with my continually low levels of DHEA and vitamin D–despite repeated dosage increases (I take 10,000 IU/day of vitamin D–he wants me to up it to 15,000 IU). It seems I’m not absorbing what I’m taking orally–suggesting a problem with gut health. I read, read, read about nutrition and health, and so I’ve put myself on a gluten-free regime. My insulin level was at 2 in June and I can’t help but think that also might have something to do with my low energy. And since Dr. Diane Schwarzbein writes that prescriptive amounts of carbs are needed to improve adrenal function, I’ve begun slightly increasing my carbs–yams and potatoes–at meals. I stay away from grains right now. I’m trying to figure out what works.

    I think it was “The Perfect 10 Diet” book by Dr. Michael Aziz that suggests fat in the thighs (which I’ve always carried, except after a contest diet) suggests low growth hormone (my levels are super low). I also have a soft belly where I used to have a 6-pack.

    So to answer your question after a very long digression, who the heck knows at a certain point what’s going on? “Your current condition,” I’d like to clarify, also involves your age, hormonal status, digestive issues, degree of inflammation, etc. It doesn’t simply reflect the amount and quality of the carbs you eat. You might look at me and figure I’m eating too many cookies. But I’m so not doing that. That’s the HUGELY frustrating thing.

    Thanks, though, for your interesting post.

    • Kyle Sommer says:

      Hi Kathleen,

      You’re certainly correct that it isn’t that simple. My article is simply a summary of the most basic issues. You have several compounding factors that aren’t easy to pinpoint and certainly couldn’t be covered in an article like this one.

      In your case, my own personal opinion is that taking hormones is a game of catch-up that will never work. I do realize that they’re very important for keeping you going, but what I’d do in your situation is get the Leap MRT food sensitivity test, as well as getting a detoxification panel to see which liver pathways are working/not working as they should.

  2. Ginger says:

    Hi Kyle,
    I find all this no-carb, eat carbs, only eat this carb….very confusing! Ha! I’m trying to lose my last 10 or less pounds from a 50lb gain after having twins. Post birth, I used to eat heathy, whole grain carbs routinely and then about 2 months ago started doing no carbs after mid-morning break, then about 3 or so weeks ago went to straight no grains or starchy carbs. I can tell a bit of a difference but it’s not HUGE like everyone says…Oh, you’ll drop tons of weight. Now, true, I dont have tons to drop but I really thought I’d lean up alot faster.
    I’ve cut back on cardio sticking to just interval running, and lift heavy weights 3x a week. Just doesn’t make any sense where exactly a “carb” belongs in my life. Because how am I supposed to know my own glycogen levels??
    I’m afraid I’m doing something wrong and that’s why the weights not dropping faster. I dont want to be screwing myself up by totally dropping carbs.
    So I know you meant this article to help, but I’m actually more confused. Am I “earning” my carbs by lifting weights? or is no starchy carbs/grains always the best way to go to be safe??

    • Kyle Sommer says:

      Hi Ginger,

      Yes, there are so many opinions because the fact of the matter is that different people need different things.

      Knowing your own glycogen levels can be tough to do – that’s why even the best physique athletes have coaches. Personally, I like more carbs in the diet than other coaches might, but that’s just how I operate.

      Earning your carbs is a tough call without training with you. I’d just ask yourself, how hard did I really work?

      • Ginger says:

        Yep. i get it. I’m just going to have to go by feel & what seems to work best. Thanks for your reply!

  3. Carla says:

    I’ve always had a hard time finding my balance. A part of me thinks I would be at 20 net carbs/day. I workout 4-6 days a week with HIIT, sometimes spinning and 45 minutes of weight training. I cant seem to get that mid section under control no matter how strict I am and how hard I work. Genetics are not in my favor though. Most of the women in my family is overweight to obese.

    • Kyle Sommer says:

      Hi Carla,

      I grew up as an overweight/obese person, so I know what you’re talking about.

      If you really are doing that much and that high of intensities of training, odds are high that you’d benefit from more carbs; certainly more than 20g per day.

      In my opinion, your limiting factor is your mindset. You speak in the present tense about failures and limiting factors – that is not a positive way to approach a goal. Visualize you will succeed, tell yourself you will, then go and do. The mind follows the body. I understand it can be difficult – but if it wasn’t, then it wouldn’t be something we could be proud of once it was achieved, correct?

      The best way to find out is to experiment – maybe try some things from the articles I’ve posted here and see how it works for you.