Carbohydrates are commonly feared and dodged when trying to burn fat as there is much confusion about ‘good’ carbs and ‘bad’ carbs.
Why should we eat carbohydrates?
- Carbs are a source of energy for the muscles during intense exercise
- Carbohydrates contain fiber, which is important for good intestinal health and digestion
- Carbs are essential for brain function
So - let’s keep it simple and clear some things up!
The truth is carbs don’t make you gain fat. The body needs to be refueled after you train, so use this meal to incorporate the carbs you love – you’ve earned them. The reason for this misconception lies in not understanding the difference between healthy and unhealthy carbs.
What are carbs?
There are 2 forms of carbohydrates: simple and complex.
Sources of complex carbohydrates, can be found in oats, rice, quinoa and noodles. Simple carbohydrates are sugars like honey, table sugar and more nutrient-rich fruit. These do not need to be broken down further, so the body can use them for quick boosts of energy – this is not what you want to be eating when sitting watching TV on the sofa! Use this energy for exercise. Complex carbohydrates are made up mostly of fiber and other essential nutrients that take a longer period of time to break down and digest and keeps you satisfied for longer, which therefore reduces the craving for unhealthy snacks.
This misunderstanding leads people to think that ALL carbohydrates are harmful and therefore exclude them completely from the diet. Wrong. The ‘bad’ carbohydrates that you need to limit are processed carbohydrates that are in packed foods made from refined sugar and white flour.
Carbohydrates are stored inside your muscles as glycogen, and this is what gets used to provide energy during intense cardio and resistance training.
After the session, your body is exhausted and is in need of sugar, as this is the quickest way of replenishing your muscles’ carbohydrate stores. This will initiate an insulin release response and drives protein to your muscle cells. So sugar at this time is fundamental – it will NOT make you fat, as it gets digested and, quick as a bullet, is used for refueling. On the other hand, if you were to eat simple carbohydrates while you’re sitting at your desk doing nothing, they get turned into triglycerides and are stored in your fat cells for use as energy later. Too much of them and you may release too much insulin into your bloodstream, which can cause sugar cravings. Therefore, simple carbohydrates do have an important use, and should not be seen as the bad guys. Their effect is totally determined on your activity levels.
“So Grace – what carbs should I eat?!”
As I’m sure you’ve all heard – it is all about a balanced diet and incorporating all the food groups, which could potentially be the next blog?!
Here’s some carbs I recommend incorporating into your diet;
- Whole grains – bursting with complex carbohydrates, fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals and are extremely low in cholesterol. Switch that white rice to brown!
- Vegetables – the healthiest carbohydrate that form a complete combination of fibers, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Get eating your greens! Spinach, broccoli, kale…
- Fruit - another great source of complex carbohydrates along with fiber, vitamins and minerals. Explore the wonderful world of fruit – I love myself a mango
- Legumes – Perfect source of carbohydrates and protein along with other vital nutrients that make it a complete food for health. Add in some beans, peas or lentils to your meals.
- Low fat dairy – good source of carbs along with protein, and minerals such as potassium, phosphorus and calcium.
So – don’t be afraid of carbs!! Use them the right way in your daily diet and you’ll notice the difference in no time.