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The Truth About Carbs

IMG_7285 Carbs seem to always be a hot topic among people trying to lose weight. Carbs have been vilified,  sometimes justifiably. But they only deserve some of the heat they take. Over the years diets have moved toward low carb, sometimes bordering on no carb. Still obesity rates continue to rise.

The problem is not carbs in and of themselves, the problem is the type of carbs you're eating and how easy it is to eat mass quantities of them. This leads to eating more total calories in a day. Foods that are high in carbs are usually the type of foods that don't fill you up, this causes you to eat more and more of them.

Lets think about breakfast foods, cereals, toasts, and bagels are very high in carbs. You could easily eat several bowls of cereal and still be hungry, believe me I used to be addicted to cereal. I would eat a bowl of cereal after every meal, then go back for more about a half an hour later. Let’s just say I wasn’t in the best of shape in those days.

If you're eating the type of carbs that we are told to eat, the calories stack and stack and you are still left feeling hungry and unsatisfied. This is because these type of carbs cause your blood sugar to rise quickly. After this quick rise, your blood sugar falls to lower than normal levels and you feel famished. So you go and eat some more.

Carbs can be used for you or against you. You can eat less and lose weight, you can eat more and gain muscle. For obese individuals who don't exercise, lower carb diets have been proven to be very effective in weight loss. For individuals who regularly participate in resistance training, carbs can be useful in supplying your muscles with energy and assisting in the transport of protein into muscles.

When you eat carbs, your insulin levels rise. This rise can be good or bad. If you exercise regularly this rise is useful in helping protein to be taken into your muscles. This allows you to build and maintain muscles. If you don’t exercise or have a high body fat percentage this rise in insulin can send signals to your body to hold onto the fat that you have. Doesn't sound fair at all, but its reality. This is why it seems as if fit people can eat whatever they want and people who are overweight gain weight just by looking at a donut.

food choicesCarbs are not universally evil lets get down to the bottom line. There are good carbs and bad carbs. The bad ones usually come in a package that says they're good for you: cereal, snacks, crackers, chips, processed grains etc. These foods say they're healthy for one reason or another (low fat, gluten free, low sugar or whatever the fad is at the time) but they're just processed junk. Our bodies don't do well trying to digest processed junk, so it ends up being stored.

Good carbs typically don't have a package or very much of a shelf life. Good carbs are whole and natural foods: vegetables, fruits, legumes, and unprocessed grains.  Our body thrives on these foods. These foods are high in fiber and complex carbs that supply us with energy and a feeling of satiety for extended periods of time, unlike the processed junk that spikes our sugar and leaves us hungry.

Now that we know that carbs are not inherently evil and that there are bad carbs as well as good ones we need to set some guidelines for our carb intake. There are times where it is better to eat carbs than others. Some carbs are better for you than others. And carbs are better as a part of you meal, not the whole thing.

It is always best to take in most of your carbs after you have done your workout for the day. When you workout you use up muscle energy (glycogen), eating carbs after a workout is the optimum time for them to be used for restoring that muscle energy. Eating carbs after a workout also helps to facilitate muscle growth and recovery. If you eat too much carbs when you don’t need them, they’re more likely to be stored as fat.

Not all carbs are created equally. You don’t get fat from eating carbs, you get fat from eating too many of the wrong carbs. You need to be eating carbs from whole food sources, not from processed junk. You could eat pounds of process junk before you got the nutrients you could get from ounces of fresh fruits and veggies. When you eat fruits and veggies, the total calories are also way lower. And weight loss always comes down to total calories.

Another thing about carbs is that they are best when accompanied by other macro nutrients than they are on their own. You digest carbs much better with they are eaten with protein than you do with carbs on their own.

When you set out to lose fat, its good to know that carbs aren’t your kryptonite. You can eat carbs and still lose weight. You just need to eat the right kinds at the right times and in conjunction with other quality food groups.