Based on some of the things you hear online and in the news, you might not believe this, but carbohydrates are good for you as long as you choose the “right” carbohydrates and understand how to consume them as part of a healthy diet. They are essential to your good health and wellbeing and they give you slow-release energy which, properly used, will stop you reaching for a sugary snack when you hit an energy slump. Unfortunately, we have all been conditioned to think that carbohydrates are bad news for weight loss or maintaining a healthy weight. That’s mainly down to the food industry. The food industry is responsible for creating packet food in large portions laced with huge amounts of sugar and chemicals that encourage over-eating. The good news is that you can eat carbs; you just need to choose the right carbs!
- Your body needs carbohydrates to perform properly on a daily basis. They’re excellent for training too, especially weight-lifting and cardio activities. Not only are carbohydrates essential to your workout, carbohydrates give your brain, heart and lungs the fuel they need to perform. As soon as you remove carbs from your body, it craves them and it starts converting other food that you consume into carbs. This highlights just how important carbohydrates are for your day to day function.
- It’s worth mentioning that there are carbs present in most vegetables, particularly green vegetables such as spinach, peppers, broccoli, sprouts and cucumbers. We all know how good vegetables are for our bodies, because they are a great source of vitamins and minerals.
- Simple carbohydrates are the naughtier kind. They comprise of refined sugar, carbonated drinks, syrups, cake, sweets and chocolate. These are the types of carbohydrates that should be limited but it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the odd treat. Just make sure those treats are eaten in moderation. A diet based solely on simple carbohydrates will pile on the pounds, so be mindful of how many simple carbs you eat.
- Complex carbs are different to simple carbs. They are the vegetable carbohydrates (as mentioned before) but they also include food such as oatmeal, brown rice, wholemeal pasta and wholemeal bread. Your body needs these for optimum performance but it can cope with both complex and simple carbs as long as you don’t make simple carbs your main source of carbohydrates.
Why People Worry About Carbs
We have been conditioned to thinking that carbohydrates are bad. The truth is, eat a diet that is too high in carbs and there is a risk. That risk isn’t just weight-gain and obesity; it is a blood sugar level concern as it rises (along with insulin), staying elevated. This could lead to diabetes. This is why you can’t eat a carb-rich diet and need to balance it with other food groups. Think about when you have a carb food-craving. This is when one biscuit isn’t enough – when you start to eat 3, 4 or 5 – even the whole packet! Your body is craving that food because it’s spiking its sugar levels. If you note what your body is craving, you start to understand why. Then when you know, you can limit that type of carbohydrate and switch it for something else instead.
Let’s talk about the Glycaemic Index. This classifies foods by how fast they are digested and how they shift blood sugar levels. The argument many people make is that following a low GI diet keeps your blood sugar balanced. However, it doesn’t always work and that’s because some foods happen to have a low-GI index but still spike your sugar levels. Also, researchers have conducted various studies on low-GI diets versus higher GI diets. The results show that a low GI doesn’t always lead to weight-loss. (See Research). So, be aware that if you wanted to drop carbs from your diet, it doesn’t always lead to weight reduction.
How Should You Eat Carbs?
How you react to carbs is dependent on your own body make-up as well as genetics, plus how active you are. However, there are general rules that you can apply to your diet, as follows:
- Try and include 1 to 2 servings of vegetables at mealtimes. You can also eat starchy carbs (potatoes, bread, oatmeal, rice), but keep the portion size low (the size of your palm). Assess this approach after a week or so to see if you’ve lost weight or not
- Add in a calorie counting approach. You can work out how many calories you should consume in order to lose weight by this formula: If you work-out less than an hour a week, multiply your weight goal by 10, this will give you your daily calorie goal. If you work-out 2 hours a week, multiple your weight goal by 11 for your daily calorie goal. If you work out for 3 hours a week, multiply by 12 and so on.
- Think about protein, you should be eating 1g for every pound of body weight that you carry. So, if you want to weigh 190lb, eat 190g of protein
- For fat, you should eat approximately 0.4g for every pound of your body weight goal. So, if you weigh 180 pounds, that’s 90 g of fat.
- Moving onto carbs. Add your calories from the fat and protein consumption and take that amount away from your allotted daily calories. That gives you the amount of carbohydrates you should be eating every day
In summary, you shouldn’t be frightened of enjoying carbohydrates, but you should be mindful of eating the right type of carbohydrates while limiting simple carbs. This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a slice of cake or a couple of biscuits. It just means you need to be mindful of carbohydrates as a whole and make sure that you eat the right amounts of other food groups to maintain a healthy body composition or to lose fat.