Before I start, I probably should preface this with not ALL carbs are bad. Yes, there are types and amounts of carbs that are not healthy for us, but not all carbs should have you running away kicking and screaming. Growing up, you probably were fed and loved carbs in the form of bread, mac and cheese, fries, pretzels, goldfish…I could go on and on from my childhood experience alone. But, now it seems like carbs are on everybody’s kill list. Want abs? No carbs. Want to be skinny? Build muscle? Look good? Feel good?…No carbs! But, the truth is carbs are not that evil. They are actually the source of our energy and can help with physical performance whether it be running, lifting, etc. So, why have carbs gotten such a bad wrap? Two reasons: the types and the amounts people are eating.
White, refined, processed carbs are bad! These are things like your pretzels, crackers, white bread, white pasta, cookies, candy, chips, pre-packaged sugary oatmeal, etc. Unless you just finished a very grueling, strenuous workout (like an athlete) you don’t eat these! When you eat these, they can affect your blood sugar levels and cause spikes. This is because these types are striped of many of their nutrients in making the products, and are very often full of sugar-added ingredients (even bread, check out most breads) which is what you want right after your workout, but not any other time. Instead, you want to choose whole-wheat and other healthy carb options for your meals and snacks (more on this later).
The second thing mentioned was the amount that people are eating. A lot of Americans today consume way too many carbs, especially the wrong kinds. Every body is different for their carb needs–for example, athletes and bodybuilders tend to need more–but most people eat in excess of that even. Their days consist of bagels, sandwiches, pizza, pasta, bread, crackers, etc. all throughout the day, meaning they’re consuming the incorrect types and amounts. Too much of anything, even healthy things like whole wheat bread, can be too much. Carbohydrate-based products also tend to be higher in calories so consuming a lot puts people over their allotted calorie intake, therefore, leading to weight gain. All these things combined have given carbs their bad rap. But, there are some sources of carbs out there that are truly good and healthy. Let’s take a look!
First, off I want to admit that I have been there before; scared of carbs and not wanting to eat too much. Which is actually pretty silly considering I am a collegiate athlete and carbs are one of my main sources of energy for performance…but that’s another story. The point is that in doing research, and talking to a nutritionist, I have learned the right kinds of carbs so I don’t fear them. Fruits and vegetables are great sources of carbs that are so good and healthy for you! The other kind is whole-grains. Examples of these types are brown rice, quinoa, barley, (other whole grain rice), whole-wheat or corn products (breads, english muffins, pita breads, tortillas), sweet potatoes, oatmeal and for me, the occasional potato. These are healthy sources of carbohydrates that will give you many benefits such as fiber. You still don’t want to eat too much of these (that’s why I calculate macros and track my food), but all of these are sources and foods that should not be feared.
Overall, it’s important to know that every person’s body is going to be different–some work well off of high-carb while others need moderate carbs. It’s also going to depend on your activity level and your goals (lose fat vs. gain muscle). But, it’s time to get off the fear-of-carbs wagon and start making healthy decisions by choosing the right kinds and mixing them with protein and healthy fats. Good, complex carbohydrates (and even simple carbs in moderation and timing)n definitely have a place in a healthy diet!!
What are your thoughts on carbohydrates?