Your brain needs a minimum amount of 130 grams of carbs per day for the brain to function optimally (not even counting exercise) and here we are cutting carbs, avoiding carbs, and skipping carbs at the worst possible times!
As always this is not the exact case for everyone and some people do really well with lower carbohydrate intake, when paired with the appropriate fat and protein intake. Many factors are involved including the size of your body, your activity levels, your goals, and how much fat and protein you are taking in. Regardless do not automatically assume that carbs are the enemy. If you do not know where to start or feel that you struggle with carb intake, start by following my 3 simple guidelines that have nothing to do with numbers.
Your golden opportunity for carbs.
How to choose the right carbs for you goals.
A little bit of knowledge for you
Carbohydrates are one of the primary macronutrients (others are fat and protein). You know this right! For every gram of carbohydrates there is 4 calories of energy. Protein also has 4 calories per gram, while fat has 9 calories and alcohol has 7.
ALL carbohydrates are broken down into the body into simple sugars whether you are consuming cookies, rice or vegetables. Yes vegetables are considered a carb and yes vegetables are broken down into simple sugars. When they are broken down and released into the bloodstream this is when the hormone insulin is released to help with the amount of sugar in the body. This is not always a bad thing which I will go into further in a bit.
Carbohydrates are the preferred fuel source of the brain and the body’s primary source for immediate energy.
The trouble is more than carbohydrates intake itself, it is the sheer volume of intake paired with a high fat, high sugar diet that has caused such a poor view of carbs. So what can you do?
Choose the right carbs for your goals.
Before you ban carbs completely ask your self these questions.
Am I eating quality carbs right now?
Am I eating them in proper amounts?
Are you eating muffins, high sugar yogurt, cookies, pastries, drinking a lot of alcohol, munching on bags of goldfish and pretzels, drinking bottles of juice or sugary coffee? If the answer is yes remember these types of carbs provide little nutrition value, have little fiber and can cause you to be craving more an hour later. What kinds of carbs, and in what quantity? Are they in line with your goals?
Before you claim carbs to be the culprit for your lack of success, start by choosing healthier carbs that have more nutrient value and are higher in fiber. Why? Because carbs that are higher in fiber and lower in sugar will enter the bloodstream slower (less spike of you insulin levels) resulting in more stable blood sugar which will help control your hunger, energy and craving levels. There is a purpose to this. This is also why it is often recommended to eat a carb source with a protein source to help slow the digestion and absorption. This leads me to my next point.
Pair carbs with protein and/or fat to help slow the digestion and absorption at most of your meals. Again this can help stabilize hunger and energy levels. Eggs and toast, greek yogurt and fruit, chicken and rice or vegetables. These are all examples of pairing a carb with a protein.
I have been pairing my carbs and protein and fats for years now, to the point where it has become effortless. But I have one vivid memory of going to a meeting where breakfast was going to be served. I wasn’t too stressed because surely they would have something I wanted to eat. The options were coffee, orange juice and pastries. I was starving and reluctantly ate all three in moderate portions but the rest of the morning I felt pretty horrible. I had low energy, headaches and was starving by lunch. I would almost rather eat nothing than just a pastry for breakfast. Pairing my foods groups has been one of the best tools I have used over what “exactly” I should eat. (This is not to say I never eat a cookie by itself or a piece of fruit but I use this strategy often).
Your golden opportunity for carbs.
I often have clients tell me they skip carbs post workout, especially if it is late at night, because they do not want to “ruin” all the work they just did. This is the absolute worst thing you can do for your bodies recovery and it will catch up with you. Post intense workout your muscles are more insulin sensitive meaning they will uptake carbs and send them directly to the muscles to replace their energy stores instead of being stored as fat. Though post workout you may feel you will undo all the hard work if you eat, you are actually missing out on the prime time to eat.
So can eating less carbs give you results? Perhaps but they are almost always temporary because many cannot sustain this way of eating. Keep in mind eating more carbs can actually help some individuals lose fat and keep it off. Until you figure out your formula follow my simple rules.
More of the “healthier” carbs like vegetables, fruits, brown rice, potatoes, beans, and less of processed carbs.
Pair your carbs with a fat or protein to help stabilize blood sugar levels.
Don’t miss eating carbs post workout.