The mantra that carbs are bad is everywhere, and a lot of sources make it sound like there’s no wiggle room whatsoever. But that’s not actually true, because whole grains with a balance of nutrients are actually really good for you. You shouldn’t avoid carbohydrates any more than you should fats or proteins; rather, you should eat them wisely.
Today we’re going to talk about the truth behind carbohydrates, how different types interact with your body, how to balance your carbs with other types of nutrients, and strategies you should use when choosing your carbs. Consider this the only carb-hacking article you’ll ever need. Ready? Let’s go.
1. The Science Behind Carbs
Most people are terribly confused on the subject of carbs. If you read any exercise blog, you’ll hear that carbohydrates are crucial to performance, muscle gain and energy while working out. However, switch your attention to weight loss or healthy eating blogs, and it’s all, “never eat them again!” It’s enough to drive a person to cheesecake.
Instead, it’s important to understand the difference between complex carbohydrates and simple ones. The former are the fibers and starches, while simple carbs are sugars. When you eat complex carbs, you feel full for a long time, with a slow and steady release of energy. Eat the wrong carbs, and you crash, then crave more.
The killer is the fact that some “complex” carbs quickly break down into simple carbs. This includes white rice, white flour, white potatoes … basically you shouldn’t trust the white carbs. Anything that leads to lots of sugar in your blood is bad.
2. Carbs and Blood Sugar
So why is sugar in your blood bad? It’s not, on its own. Your body uses the simple carbohydrate glucose for energy, so you do need it. However, sweets and soft drinks and other sugary foods lead to too much glucose. In order to get it out of your bloodstream and regain equilibrium, your body has to move it into storage (fat) using the hormone insulin. This causes an insulin spike, which quickly removes all the sugar from your blood. You crash, you want more, you eat more. Repeat cycle indefinitely.
3. Balancing Macronutrients
Instead of turning to sugar and simple carbs as your source of energy, you should balance proteins, fats and the right kinds of carbs. Your proteins should come from beans, chicken, fish, nuts and seeds. These all contain the right kinds of fats – to which you can add olive oil, coconut oil, avocado and some butter – to keep you feeling full. They also slow down your digestion of carbohydrates, making them last longer in your system and breaking them down into sugar slowly rather than quickly. This reduces the insulin spike, and with it the crash-and-crave cycle.
4. Choosing the Right Carbs
It’s important to get the right kinds of carbs. Avoid simple carbs from sweets, packaged foods and sugary drinks except when you’re having a rare treat. You should turn to high-fiber fruits (apples, say), whole grains, starchy roots (sweet potatoes, for instance) and vegetables.
Other good choices include granola made from whole grains such as rolled oats. It should be balanced with fat and protein: nuts, seeds, nut butter, butter, coconut, nut oils and canola oil to provide a slow-release energy boost you can rely on for exercise, work and a full day of feeling awake, alert and healthy.
Don’t let carbs get you down any longer! Armed with newfound knowledge, you can now make the right choices for life.