Carbs sure get a bad rap, don't they? When you are at a dinner party, it's not uncommon to hear talk around the kitchen saying, "I can't eat that (referring to bread, crackers, pasta or sugary foods) or it will go right to my hips!" Most every diet you read about has a carbohydrate restriction. But why?
Structure of Carbohydrates
First, let's look at what carbohydrates are. Carbohydrates are one of three macronutrients your body needs to live. The other two are protein and fat. Carbs are the sugars, starches and fibers found in fruits, grains, vegetables and milk products. There are different forms of carbohydrates based on their chemical structure.
Simple vs. Complex Carbs
Carbohydrates are sugars that come in two main forms- simple or complex. The difference between a simple and complex carb is in how quickly it is digested and absorbed. Simple carbs break down faster than complex raising your blood sugar level faster. Simple carbs are found in foods like syrup, jelly, fruit juice, a lot of processed foods, honey and table sugar. Think of things that are sweet and they are probably high in simple carbs.
A complex carb takes longer to digest and doesn't raise your blood sugar as quickly. It has more fiber than a simple carb. They are often referred to as starchy foods. Some examples include fruits, beans, peas, lentils pumpkin, potatoes, corn, parsnips, whole-grain breads, whole grain pasta and oatmeal.
Function of Carbs
They have a necessary purpose believe it or not! They are a quick source of energy for your body. The American Diabetes Association notes that carbohydrates are the body's main source of energy. We need them for brain function. Let's look at when your body needs and uses them the most.
Is it ever good for our bodies to have simple carbs? Yes! During a long bike ride or run, you would want to ingest simple carbs to give your body something it doesn't have to work so hard on to convert to give you quick energy. It is also good to have some simple carbs right after a workout (cardio or weight training) to replenish the loss of glycogen stores used. Great options are: one banana, apple, dried fruit (mango, raisins, etc), glass of milk or yogurt. Typically, you would want to avoid eating simple carbs except for during or after workout if you are trying to lose weight.
The right amount of Carbs
Your body can only digest and use only so many carbs at a time. If you give it too much, your body will store it. And if your muscles can't store anymore carbohydrates.....guess what?! It gets stored as the dreaded fat tissue! So, yes... continually eating too many carbs can make you gain weight.
If you are an active person, you need carbs, so don't be afraid of them. Especially complex carbs because your body needs them for repairing and everyday functioning. The trick with carbohydrates is timing and not overdoing it!
How many carbs should you be eating? There are so many different factors that come into play. Your age, weight, height, activity level and goals come into play. I would be doing you a disservice by giving you an amount of carbohydrates to eat without knowing more about you. My job is just that, giving you a custom nutrition plan to help you meet your bodies needs! Not trying to bait-and-switch you with this article, I just want to debunk the myth that carbs are the enemy!
Core Nutrition Coaching: Your Coach for the body & mind, coaching Prescott to better health, one bite at a time!