Some people say they’re “addicted to carbs,” while others profess to “not eat carbs after 6pm.” But what are carbohydrates and why are they such a constant source of debate and argument?
Carbohydrates are one of the three macronutrients and are the sugars found in starches, dairy, fruit and grains. They are made of of carbon, oxygen and hydrogen and are the body’s preferred source of energy (stored carbs are referred to as glycogen). Where they become tricky is that there are many different types of carbs and how they respond in the body varies depending upon the type.
Generally speaking, carbs are classified into either simple or complex carbohydrates. Simple carbs are either mono- or disaccharides (one or two molecules of sugar) versus complex long chain carbs which are three or more. Examples of each are listed below:
Sugars found in candy, baked goods and syrup
Understanding carbs is also about understanding how they are absorbed and how much the body can hold. Simple carbs are absorbed more rapidly than complex, which in turn, spikes insulin levels. Generally speaking, this is undesirable when looking to lose weight as insulin also promotes the storage of those carbs, and if that fuel tank of glycogen (stored carbohydrate) is full, it can be metabolized into fat. You see, the human body can only store a finite amount of glycogen at any given time, and any spillover essentially gets turned to fat. And as we all know, the fat fuel tank is infinite.
All carbs are not bad, but understanding which ones might be better at certain times and understanding portion sizes play a huge role is the key to conquering the carb phobia and making them work for you. Carbs can be helpful in order to fuel workouts and for satiety, but too much of a good thing is not helpful. They also can be useful in acting as a glycemic shuttle for amino acids during the anabolic window (2 hour post-strength bouts) which helps to replenish muscle tissue of glycogen and amino acids for reparation. This helps in the whole quest to increase muscularity and tone.
Some tips to ensure you’re getting the right types of carbs and proper timing of carbs are as follows:
Pair your carbs with a protein - it will slow down the glycemic response.
Be mindful of portion sizes of your complex carbs. Fill up on fibrous veggies instead at most meals.
Save a high glycemic carb (like a banana) for post-workout along with a protein. It will help drive those amino acids from the protein to muscle cells for quicker, more optimal repair and replenishment.
Don’t fear carbs - they can aid and be worked in to any weight loss regimen. They do not need to be avoided.
They are not addictive - don’t sweat that you might need carb rehab.
For most meals, stick to low glycemic, unrefined complex carbohydrates like brown rice, oats, yams and quinoa.
Give up any refined carbs like sugar, soda, baked goods and candy. They serve no purpose.
To reiterate, carbohydrates are one of the three macronutrients, along with protein and dietary fats, that are necessary in order to maintain ideal function in the human body. They can aid in any strength and/or weight loss program and can, in fact, be beneficial. Giving up carbs forever is not realistic, so don’t set yourself up for failure. Instead, learn about them, understand the differences and what they do in the body and use then to your advantage.
Stay tuned for Truth Series: Dietary Fats coming up on our blog. And always! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.