So, Let’s Talk About Carbs…
In the book, Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About it, Gary Taubes shares his opinion on the real reason behind the obesity crisis; “The simple answer as to why we get fat is that carbohydrates make us so; protein and fat do not.” In my opinion, his books make very good points, and he backs up his findings with a lot of research, but unfortunately this is one of those areas where one size does not fit all. As we learn more and more about how different body types and backgrounds store and utilize food, it becomes more evident the role that personalized nutrition will play in the future. The concept of bio-individually means that one person may react to a type of food differently than someone else. This is why I approach blanket statements like this one and most of the mainstream diets with caution.
With all the controversy these days around carbohydrates, it can be quite difficult to know what to make of the information that is constantly telling us contradicting stories. Some of the most common questions from clients that I hear are: “Are carbs bad for you?”, “How much is the right amount of carbs?”, “What are the best carbs to eat?”, and “When should I eat my carbs?”
Are carbs bad for you?
Not really - but when I say, carbs are not bad for you, please realize that I am not talking about the boxes of processed carbs that I used to eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner growing up (cereal, bagels, pretzels, etc.). Additionally, added sugar is linked to many chronic diseases and is a topic which warrants a future posting on its own. The carbs I am talking about are whole, nutrient dense carbs such as veggies, potatoes, rice, fruit, nuts and seeds. Carbs are one of 3 main macro-nutrients (Carbs, Protein, Fat) that our body needs to carry out routine functions like staying alive (pretty important one!). There are certain eating plans that call for a drastic reduction of carbohydrates to get your body into Ketosis which works well as a way of eating for some, but in general, you are not going to feel too great without carbs in your life.
How much is the right amount?
It depends - I personally found a good amount of carbs for the type of exercise I was doing in the winter months was around 150 grams per day. With longer days, half marathon training, and more time to spend working out, I have increased my carbs significantly while at the same time decreasing my fat intake. For more information on how to tweak your macros, check out my post from a few months back: the perfect diet for you or follow up with me for more detailed questions.
What are the best carbs to eat?
Try to focus on colorful, unprocessed, non packaged carb sources, rather than breads, pastas, or wheat. I like to incorporate gluten free grains such as quinoa, lentils and gluten free tortillas (brown rice, corn) on days when I want a treat or need a more substantial amounts of carbs. It is important to get adequate fiber in your diet as well. Fiber is a carbohydrate that is unable to be broken down to simple sugars by the body, and adds bulk to your digestive process (which makes you feel full). If you have problems with digestion, be sure you are getting enough leafy greens, fruits and other high fiber foods - NOT FIBER ONE BARS!
When should I eat my carbs?
This is a question that you may see various responses to depending on who you speak with. Some will say, “don’t eat carbs at night,” whereas others will say to “focus on consuming your carbs at night.” For the vast majority of us, any time throughout the day should be fine - as long as you are hitting your macro-nutrient and caloric goals. For athletes or those who workout quite a bit, scheduling carbs around workouts by having a piece of fruit before and a carbohydrate rich protein shake after should help with recovery. If you tend to have difficulty sleeping at night, adding some carbs with dinner or post dinner could help you slip off into dreamland a bit easier. For more on food timing, check out my post on The Perfect Day.
So, what’s this mean for you? Try to focus on whole, unprocessed carbs, in the right amount, steadily throughout the day, and you should be fine. Need more specifics - I’m here to help!
What’s are your favorite sources of carbs?
Until next time, catch me in the comments.
About Performing Nutrition: Jon is a certified Health Coach through the Institute for Integrative nutrition, and pursuing a M.S. in Nutrition at the University of Bridgeport. Performing Nutrition offers tailored programs for men and women of all sizes and backgrounds looking to lose fat, get stronger and become all around healthier.
Disclosure… Even though he is a certified health coach and studying to be a nutritionist, opinions shared here should not be a replacement for your doctor.