Carbs… Friend or Foe?

I’m not a betting man, but I would bet that most people cringe when they think about carbs and that they are to be avoided like the plague if you want to lose fat. The truth is we need carbs. Especially if you exercise, have a physically demanding job, or want to perform your best.

What most people need to focus on is eating more complex carbohydrates. Complex carbs (sometimes I call “smart carbs”) help prevent blood sugar swings, give us long lasting energy, and help us feel fuller for longer.

Smart carbs can be found in foods such as:

  • fruit (fresh or frozen)
  • starchy tubers like sweet potatoes and potatoes
  • squashes
  • whole, minimally processed grains (oats, quinoa, brown or wild rice)
  • beans and legumes (but aren’t those listed as protein from last week??? YES! Not many foods are 100% protein or carbs or fats, they can have all of the above, just wait until I talk about fatty fish next week)

Referring back to my first post about protein with the hand method for portion control infographic, women get 1 cupped handful of carb dense food at each meal and men get 2. That means that giant baked potato at your favorite restaurant you really like is way too many carbs. Think of about 1/2 a medium potato being 1 serving for most people (depending on how big you are and your goals).

Refined carbs are the ones that most people need to limit. They CAN however be our friend. When you need a quick burst of energy that digests quickly while you are exercising, these do the trick. Carbs are the primary energy source for intense exercise, we need them. However most of the time, eating refined carbs just lead to having more cravings, make us hungrier later (so we eat more again), and leave us feeling blah.

Examples of refined carbs would be:

  • pastries
  • cookies and bars (even those protein bars that look like candy bars)
  • candies and chocolate
  • sugary drinks like soda and juice
  • sweetened dried fruits

So next time you think about having a couple donuts before your workout, think again. They might just bonk your energy and any will you had to get in your workout!

So to keep this simple and bring it home, carbs are not the devil. You just need to be eating the right ones in the right amounts. Take a look at the twinkie diet, that professor (from my alma mater) lost weight while getting the majority of his calories from snack cakes. The number one rule of trying to lose weight (fat) is that you need to burn more calories than you consume, you need a deficit. Carbs like bread and pasta get a bad wrap because they are higher in calorie and people generally eat too much of them. If you’re active, carbs are essential. If you’re trying to lose weight, it’s an area that is easy to cut back but you do not have to eliminate.

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