Everything You Need to Know About Carbs
It’s a constant back and forth battle between what is good and bad when it comes to carbs. This source says they’re good, but then someone on Keto says they’re bad. You’re probably just wanting to know what’s right for your body so that you can continue making progress. However, it’s never going to be that black or white. There is so much more middle ground to nutrition and what your body does with food is a complex process. There’s no way to narrow it down to something being completely good or completely bad.
In this post, we’re going to be talking about carbs. We’re going to be discussing the good and the bad, as well as the kinds of carbs you need to focus on. Yes, not all carbs are made the same.
So, buckle up, and let’s dive in.
Are All Carbs Bad?
All carbs are not bad, and they’re probably not the thing that’s making you struggle. While they could be a part of the equation, eating some carbs won’t ruin your progress. There are many things involved that can lead to success or failure when it comes to nutrition, and whether you eat carbs or not isn’t usually the culprit.
In fact, your body needs carbohydrates, especially if you plan on participating in intense workouts. While you can totally function on a low carb diet, the human body prefers carbohydrates as a source of energy. They’re quick, efficient, and get the job done. Just because you can use something else, like fat, doesn’t mean it’s the most optimal.
The idea is that you need to be responsible with carbs. Carbs taste good and we can tend to overeat them, which could lead to weight gain. There are also multiple variations of them. Each of these variations functions differently in the body, thus leading to totally different outcomes. So, if you’re overeating carbs and consuming the wrong kinds, you could end up with a less than ideal outcome. However, if you’re consuming what you need and getting the proper variations, you’ll be totally fine.
Carbs can be “bad”, and carbs can be “good”. These are what we’re going to be looking at next moving forward.
We’ll start on the good before we get into the bad. Carbs are essentially made up of sugar molecules. These molecules can be super complex or extremely simple. The more complex, the longer your body takes to assimilate the nutrients and break them down. If they’re extremely simple, they’ll be digested and dispersed very quickly. We can look at these differences as a being a slow digesting carbohydrate and a fast-digesting carbohydrate.
While fast may sound good, slow is in fact better. These slow, complex carbs are more nutrient dense than their simple counter parts. They provide more vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients than a simple carbohydrate. They also help to keep your blood sugar stable without a spike and crash (think of having a ton of sweets and needing a nap, that’s a blood sugar spike and crash). This also plays a role on your insulin levels, as complex carbs will keep things steady versus having peaks and valleys.
Complex or good carbs are also going to help you to stay full for longer. They often have more fiber and take longer to break down, thus your body feels satisfied and keeps hunger at bay. Whereas a fast-digesting carbohydrate will often leave you wanting more due to the lack of fiber and other nutrients.
While you’ll get a better idea of what carbs to eat later, whole food carbohydrate sources are often the best. Things that come in a package or are process will almost always be filled with sugars and simple carbs. Eat foods from the ground and you’ll more than likely be eating a good carb.
Bad may seem like a harsh word for something you eat, and it can be. A simple carbohydrate exists for a reason and there can be a time and place to use them. Again, this comes down to being responsible. Will having a bad carb once ruin everything, probably not. However, if they make up most of the carbohydrates you’re eating, you’ll see a more negative outcome. So, what are bad carbs? Carbohydrate foods that are lacking in nutrients like vitamins and minerals will more often be your bad carbs. These are also going to be foods that are full of simple sugars. Things like candy, cake, syrups, and some breads are all simple carbs. Most of them are almost always pure sugar and will spike your blood sugar almost immediately.
These bad carbs are almost always easy to eat as well, which means that you will tend to overeat. If we’re consuming too many calories in this way, we can start to store body fat.
What separates a good and bad carb will be the nutrient content. Does it have vitamins and minerals? Does it contain fiber? These are all important things to consider. For example, fruit contain simple sugars but isn’t necessarily a bad carb. Why? Because most fruits are packed with fiber and other nutrients. They don’t breakdown in the same ways that a piece of candy would.
Whole food carbs are good carbs, processed carbs are bad carbs.
What Carbs Should You Eat?
Now, you have some direction on what kind of carbs there are, so what are some foods that I recommend for optimal results? Obviously, we’re going to focus on complex/slow carbs here as those are going to keep you full and provide steady energy.
Rice is a phenomenal option and one that many enjoy. Now, you can use any rice you like. The myth is that brown rice is better, but in fact both brown and white rice are about the same. One or the other won’t make or break your progress.
If you’re a bread eater, Ezekiel bread is a great option. This bread is made from sprouted wheat, and other high nutrient grains. This means that it contains loads of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Thus, making for a super complex carb that can fit into any meal.
Oats are a staple in most diets as they’re quick and can be used in many different ways. So long as you aren’t adding tons of butter or sugar to your oats, you’ll have something that will give you sustainable energy throughout the day. A popular choice is overnight oats, as you can prepare them the night before and have it on hand the next morning.
Quinoa is a special grain that is packed with fiber. It’s also a grain that contains protein. So, you’re getting something that is super complex that will slowly digest after consumption to keep you full.
Sweet potatoes are a must have if you’re looking for complex carbs. These are full of fiber and crucial vitamins/minerals. You can have them plain or doctor them up with cinnamon. Either way you have them, they’re cheap and fit right in.
Good or bad carbs, what it really comes down to is responsibility. Are you keeping the amount of carbs you consume in check? Are we consuming carbs that are full of nutrients and fiber? Or are we eating foods that are pure sugar and easy to overeat? Understanding carbs is important because they don’t seem so scary when you gain some clarity. They’re a great source of energy and your body prefers them, but you must do it right. It’s not one or the other, but more so how you approach them.
Eat your carbs and crush your goals.