Who doesn’t love carbohydrates? When we think of carbs, mashed potatoes, pasta, bread and oatmeal come to mind. What also comes to mind though is how these types of food make the numbers go up on the scale. So for those dieting, the question is “do I avoid these or do I learn which to eat and when?”. I will hopefully shed some light on that subject and give you some general guidelines when looking to improve your overall health and body composition.
Carbohydrates are one of the three macronutrients that make up our daily diet. Sugars, starches and fiber are all carbohydrates due to their similar structure. They differ, though, in how rapidly they are digested and absorbed by the body. All carbs are eventually broken down into glucose which is essential to life. Glucose is a readily available fuel source that our bodies use first for energy. The liver and muscle cells have limited capacity to store glucose so any that is leftover will to be stored as fat. This is how the body protects itself in case of famine.
Let me get this out of the way first when talking about losing weight. The average person, especially women, tend to restrict their daily caloric intake too far. Make sure you are eating plenty of nutritious, whole, unprocessed, real food. If your grandma didn’t have it then neither should you. Next, all of us are different genetically when it comes to metabolism. Some tolerate carbs well like those who eat whatever they want and never gain a pound. Then we have people who tolerate them poorly and gain weight just by looking at them. Finally we have those who fall somewhere in the middle. Know your type. Now onto the good stuff.
I will attempt to simplify things since I don’t want to put you to sleep with all the science mumbo-jumbo. We basically have two types of carbohydrates. Fibrous (non-starchy) carbs are those lower in sugar consisting of broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, kale etc. I can’t possibly list them all here. These carbs are lower on the glycemic index scale, are filling and control blood sugar thus insulin release in your bloodstream. Starchy/Fruit carbs sit higher on the glycemic index scale. These are the tasty ones such as potatoes, rice, pasta, bread and most fruit just to name a few. These contain more sugar, are digested faster resulting in spikes in your blood sugar and greater insulin response. A diet high in these types of carbs constantly will lead to weight gain, elevated triglycerides and insulin resistance over the long term. Insulin resistance will eventually lead to cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Now when do you eat what? If your goal is weight loss then the bulk of your daily diet needs to be fibrous carbs. You must earn your starchy carbs by exercising. No, not by walking around the block. You need to spend approximately 60 minutes working up a sweat and raising your heart rate. Exercise like resistance training or sprinting. After an exercise session of this type your body will better utilize starchy carbs for repair and recovery. Intense exercise will make your muscle cells more sensitive to glucose and insulin where your fat cells will be less sensitive. DO NOT over eat this type of carbohydrate. It is easily done so watch your portion size. Begin with a 1 cup serving size.
To wrap things up, consume enough calories from whole unprocessed, real food. Eat more fibrous carbs to stay full and control your blood sugar. Earn your starchy carbs with a sweaty exercise session and control your portion size. Remember you are what you eat!