Understanding Nutrition: Carbs
You’ve heard both sides of the argument, “Carbs are terrible for you! They get stored as fat!” and “Carbs are necessary for your body to produce the energy it needs!”. So are they good, or are they bad? The truth here is that there is no easy answer. The answer is decided on what your goals, activity level, and insulin sensitivity are.
So, what are carbs and how do they affect your body? There are two types of carbohydrates: simple and complex. Simple carbs are starchy and sweet, such as fruit, noddles, and potatoes. Complex carbs take longer to digest, such as oatmeal, sweet potatoes, and beans. So what’s the difference?
Simple carbs are quickly digested and cause your insulin levels to spike shortly after consumption. This tells your body to convert the carbs into glucose to use as energy. This is good and bad. If you’re about to workout or perform a high-intensity exercise you will need this energy to perform at peak performance. However, if you’re sitting on the couch all day, this glucose will be stored as fat to use later.
Complex carbs are digested over a longer period of time. This allows for sustained performance over time. If you plan to take a long walk or easy jog, you can convert complex carbs into glucose readily enough while not storing any as fat.
So what happens to carbs when they aren’t used? They will be stored as fat to be burned later. This is the main reason people try avoiding carbs. By eliminating then, you will be reliant on fat and protein for energy. Because fat is easier to convert to glucose than protein, your body will automatically start burning fat, hence you will lower your overall body fat. There are other factors to consider, however. If you are planning to perform an intense cardio workout at 85-90% HR, your body will not be able to convert fat efficiently enough to keep up and your performance will suffer. This is a scenario when it would be a good idea to consume a small number of carbs that you can quickly burn for energy.
The ultimate answer to the question really depends on your lifestyle and goals. There are 3 main questions to ask yourself to decide:
- Are you highly active (workout 5+ times per week, or have a physically demanding job)?
- Are you sensitive to insulin? (do you gain weight easily?)
- What are your fitness goals? (under 10% body fat?)
If you are a highly active person who is sensitive to insulin and your goal is to lower your overall body fat, we would recommend decreasing your carb consumption to 10% of your daily total calories. On a 2,000 calorie diet, this would be 200g of carbs. This will be enough for you to perform during workouts but not have much left over to store as fat. Need help finding what foods to replace your extra carbs with? Read here to find the best muscle building foods for your next diet!
What are your thoughts on carbs? Love em? Hate em? Reply to us! We’d love to hear!