The Truth About Carbs

Why ALL Carbs Aren’t Bad

Carbs always seem to get a bad rap. People don’t like them and want to stay away from them. They’re seen as inherently evil and the cause of weight gain. But, carbs aren’t necessarily “bad”. In fact; certain carbs, in the right amount, are good for you. Carbs are severely limited at almost all costs in diets such as Atkins, South Beach, and Keto. The thing is, carbs are your body’s preferred source of energy. It’s quick fuel for things like resistance training, sprinting…Your body mainly fuels and operates off of carbs. Carbs help your body run, promote a healthy gut, and help increase satiety (i.e. fiber). It’s the type of carbs you want to keep a close eye on.

The Bad Carbs

When you hear about carbs being “bad”; think added, unnatural, sugar. Sugars are a quick digesting source of energy. Fast digesting carbs can be good if you’re running a marathon and are ready to “bonk”, or if you just got done with an intense bout of physical activity; but we really don’t need tons of added sugar. Sugar spikes insulin levels, which can be a good thing post-workout, but otherwise it just slows down your body’s ability to burn fat. Spiking your insulin tells your body to go into storage mode. Bring all these nutrients into the cells to be used or stored. According to the American Heart Association, men should only be consuming 36 grams of added sugar a day and women should be consuming 25 grams per day. For reference, a 20 ounce bottle of Coca-Cola contains 65 grams of added sugar. Too much added sugar can contribute to insulin resistance, which can cause multiple health concerns, including diabetes.

So There are Good Carbs and Bad Carbs?

Well, I don’t like to classify foods as good and bad; however, we do want to minimize the amounts of added sugar. Vegetables, both starchy and non-starchy, are going to have carbohydrates. There’s going to be a difference between eating a sweet potato, a Ho-Ho, and an asparagus spear. All of the aforementioned foods contain carbohydrates, but only one of them, the Ho-Ho, would have the added sugars that we want to minimize. As a general rule, whole foods based carbohydrates are going to have good amounts of fibers, vitamins, and minerals that are beneficial to your performance in the gym and you health. These are going to be the foods that supply you with healthy amounts of the right types of carbs.

Moderation is Key

As with anything, moderation is key. Eating too many carbs, consuming too much “energy” and it’s going to be stored as either glycogen in the muscle and liver for later use or as fat. At each meal, a good rule of thumb is this: Men should eat about two cupped palm sizes of carbs (starchy veggies or grains, fruits) with each meal, and women should eat one. This is a basic guideline to get you started. You can adjust amounts as needed depending on your goals.

Did You Lose Weight When you Cut Carbs?

I’m not surprised. I’d be more surprised if you told me you didn’t lose weight this way. The thing is, is that most diets do work, whether they cut carbs or not, due to a caloric deficit. Also, carbohydrates naturally pull water into your muscle cells. When you decrease carb intake you decrease water, causing weight loss. You will lose weight when you cut carbs, but is this sustainable for you? Do you want to be on a low carb long-term? Can you get in all vitamins and minerals going low carb?

Before You Decide

Before you decide to go low carb, have all the info. There has been a recent study that found people who consumed less carbs had a higher risk for atrial fibrillation. This, of course, is only correlation, but we need to take note. I like getting in as many nutrients as possible, from carbs, proteins, fats… Eating a variety of whole foods means getting in a variety of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and phytonutrients that are essential to your body’s optimal function. At the end of the day, consult with your physician before beginning any new dietary plan. Work with a registered dietitian if you have a medical condition or special dietary needs. Focus on maintaining a caloric deficit, getting in your vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. That is the key to sustainable weight loss.

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