What’s the deal with carbs?
Thanks to the rise of fad diets such as keto, South Beach, Atkins, etc., we have all been unfairly led to believe that carbs are the enemy. This isn’t an accurate statement.
We need carbohydrates in our daily diet as they are our primary source of energy. The sugar in carbohydrates, glucose, is used as fuel or stored in the cells as glycogen for later energy expenditure. Without these glycogen stores, we are less likely to perform at peak performance in the gym, which reduces our overall training results. Not to mention, carbohydrates also contain fiber, which we need for satiety and digestive regulation.
What varies person to person is their carb tipping point, or how many carbs they need to sustain energy while also regulating insulin levels for hormonal balance. It’s also important to think about how we consume carbohydrates. On their own, carbs aren’t so great for living lean.
Let’s use a bagel as an example. A bagel on its own is unlikely to provide much satiety. When we eat something excessively high in carbohydrates, our body releases too much insulin to lower the blood sugar caused by the bagel. That creates a “blood sugar crash” causing hunger two hours later. When we repeat this behavior over and over again, we end up with an abundance of insulin in the system, causing insulin resistance. Our body no longer receives the message to stop producing glucose, resulting in excess glucose in the body which then often gets stored as fat.
So how do we eat carbs without causing this effect?
- Seek out high fiber complex carbohydrates. Fiber can’t be converted to sugar, which reduces the insulin response. Think: sweet potatoes, black beans, quinoa, chickpeas, bean/chickpea pasta (like Banza), oats, quinoa, etc.
- Eat carbohydrates alongside a true protein source. When we consume protein, glucagon is released and counters the effect of insulin.
- Prioritize veggies. Always more veggies than fruit, as they are low-no sugar, low calorie, high volume, and high fiber.
- Consume carbs that are higher on the glycemic index post-workout. The body is likely to be more insulin sensitive at this time, which means the excess carbs are going to focus on building muscle versus storing fat.
Carbohydrates are often misunderstood and misused, which gives them the bad reputation they’ve unfairly earned. Carbs absolutely have a place in everyone’s diet; it all depends on how we use them and manipulate them to work in our favor. So carb up, everyone.