The age old question of anyone looking to lose weight and burn fat - should I stop eating carbs? Carbohydrates have been put through the ringer over the years and often scolded by the mainstream media. One day carbs are our best friend and then the next they are the reason for american obesity!
I think it’s helpful to first go over the different types of carbohydrates so that you can get a better understanding of what it is that is going on with different carbohydrate dense foods. The goal is to gain confidence in choosing foods that align with your vision of who you would like to be.
What is a carbohydrate?
Carbohydrates are one of 3 macronutrients that add to the energy and total calories needed to fuel our bodies. Carbs must be eaten for us to get the components in our body - we cannot make them within our body. Carbohydrates are found in fruits, vegetables, grains, milk and when broken down provide the body with glucose, fructose, sucrose, and lactose.
Carbs are used for energy demands put on the body which is why the NiH (National Institutes of Health) requires between 40-65% carb calorie allotment per day. While this may sound like a lot , you must realize what types of carbs there are to stay within caloric demands everyday.
There are 2 main sources of carbohydrates : Simple Carbs and Complex carbs. Having an idea of what these are and how they work can truly help your workouts as well as your overall satiety level through the day. If you are looking to keep your calories in check - you better be paying attention to what type of carbohydrate you are eating!
Simple carbs ...put quite simply are those foods that only have 1-2 sugars and are broken down much faster and more easily. This means a quick boost of energy which helps to raise sugar levels in the blood. Some of these foods are:
Soda (Refined sugar)
Candy (Refined sugar)
Syrups (Refined sugar)
Refined sugars are those that are devoid of any actual nutritional value. Products such as soda and candy are without important parts like fiber while still having a calorie value that is equal or greater than fruits and milk. Do your best to avoid these foods as they will only lead to excess calories at no benefit to the function of your body!
Complex carbohydrates are those that have more than 3 sugars and are often described as “starchy carbs”. I know what you are thinking - isn’t that bad for me?
The simple and quick answer...NO - complex carbohydrates are great for you!
Complex carbs take longer to break down (as they have more chains to break apart in digestion) and therefore will keep you energized for a longer period of time. Some complex carbs are:
Whole grains (bread, rice)
The general rule for what type of carbs to eat is this: If you are finding yourself needing a quick boost of energy in the middle of the day knowing that lunch is in an hour or so - a piece of fruit (simple carbs) is great to help tide you over and give you the mental boost to last until a full meal. Simple carbs are also great before a workout as you won’t feel too full yet will have energy to sustain through the exercise.
If you are eating a meal and know that this meal is supposed to keep you hungry for the next 3-4 hours eating a piece of whole grain bread or substantial vegetables (complex carbs) will keep you full and energized allowing you to stave off any cravings of sugar from crappy sources!
Okay so now that you have a baseline understanding of what types of carbs are out there - I want to briefly go over the importance of an often forgotten about part of food - Fiber!
Filling up with Fiber
Something that many people do not realize when it comes to carbs is the addition of fiber to the diet. Fiber is a carbohydrate that cannot be broken down by human digestion. Fiber is found in vegetables, fruits, and grains. The beauty of fiber in weight loss is its ability to fill you up.
Fiber does not add to overall calorie count as it can’t be broken down - yet is vital in keeping you satiated. Fiber is also used to absorb water to help with healthy bowel movements!
In order to keep things flowing well - eating smart carbohydrates is a necessity. I advise you to check your food labels when purchasing and look at the fiber and sugar content.
So...are carbs bad for me?
Everyone at one point has said : “I need to stop eating bread and pasta, it’s no good for me”. If you are one of these people listen closely...these foods aren’t bad for you and aren’t directly causing you to gain weight. It’s true that white breads and refined pasta will provide less nutritional value to you and should be limited in your diet.
Weight gain is very simple...you’ve heard it before, it’s about calories in vs. calories out. This has nothing to do with carbs by themselves, they don’t have that kind of power. You give them the power to overtake your nutrition when you reach for refined sugars that have little to no nutritional value. These foods don’t keep you full but still add to your total calorie count for the day.
However I want you to be completely honest and realistic when it comes to your ideas about carbohydrates. Carbs are NECESSARY for your body to function optimally. The idea that there is a “bad carb” comes from the crappy sources that we’ve been sold to over and over again in the mainstream media.
What I want you to do is gain the knowledge and awareness that carbs such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are beneficial for your overall health. You don’t need to research all the complicated nutrition science but at least understand that you can’t victimize 1 of 3 major macronutrients.
Some of the best advice I can give you today is to take notice of your hunger levels throughout the day. If you for example are eating a banana for breakfast at 7AM and think that you can last until 12PM for lunch - you are fighting against the benefit of that banana. Simple carbs are for quick energy, complex carbs are for sustained energy!
Be honest with yourself and truly think about how cutting out carbs will benefit you and how you will feel through it. If you feel that getting rid of the breads, grains and fruits is something you can realistically do - then I say go for it and see how you can adapt to it.
You always want to set yourself up for success - give yourself the best possible chance in forming the body and life you want.
We at Forever Fit believe that nutrition habits are at the center of all change. If you can make a change in lifestyle habits consistently over time, you can start to take control over your health. No more feeling like you are held back by carbs but instead energized and fueled by them!
Please for the love of all that is right in this world - stop crucifying carbohydrates!
Feel free to reach out and contact me at email@example.com to ask questions or get some clarity on this!