There is a lot of conflicting information on the topic of carbohydrates. Are they good? Are they bad? Should we avoid them? Let's get to the bottom of this right now!
What are Carbohydrates?
Carbohydrates are one of 3 macronutrients – protein and fat being the other two. They are essential when it comes to providing energy to our bodies and are one of our primary nutrient sources.
Types of Carbohydrates:
There are two types of carbohydrates.
1. Simple Carbohydrates are any carbs that have been processed (candy, chocolate, fruit juice, bread, pasta, etc).
2. Complex Carbohydrates are unrefined and unprocessed (vegetables, root vegetables, and whole grains like quinoa, bulgar, long grain rice, steel cut oats, farro, etc). Due to their unprocessed nature, complex carbohydrates have a high fiber content - which you'll see is very important.
The sneaky thing about carbohydrates (whether we're talking about simple or complex carbs) is that they all break down into the same thing in our bodies... SUGAR! So, why does it matter what type of carbohydrate we eat if it all gets broken down to the same damn thing? Why can’t we just eat candy instead of broccoli?!
Here is the Secret:
It all comes down to the speed at which these carbohydrates are digested and absorbed. Simple carbs are broken down immediately and very quickly starting with the enzymes in your saliva. Because these carbs have already been processed, the digestion process is sped up which causes a spike of sugar into blood stream (blood glucose). Complex carbs on the other hand have more fiber, which slows down digestion creating a trickle effect of sugar into the bloodstream.
Why Does it Matter?
To put it simply, if there is a spike in blood glucose, the body responds by storing that excess glucose as fat. There is too much blood glucose at one time and your body cannot utilize and process it effectively. I know what you're thinking... NOT GOOD!
This is why it’s so important to eat complex carbs rich in fiber over simple processed carbs.
Carbohydrate Timing and Weight Loss:
If you’re looking to tone or lose extra pounds, the best time to eat these complex carbs is within an hour after your workout.
The first thing your body uses during a workout is stored muscle glycogen (sugar stored in your muscles). When you finish your workout, you’ve depleted that stored muscle glycogen, so there’s always a place for that glucose to go after your workout.
So, after your workout is a great time to eat a nice bowl of steel cut oats, ezekial or sour dough bread with eggs, or if you workout in the afternoon or evening, your dinner can consist of whole grains or potatoes. The rest of the day, fill up on lean proteins (fish, poultry, eggs, tofu), healthy fats (avocados, seeds and nuts) and of course vegetables. Eating with this timing in mind will keep you lean, and give you energy!
Remember that it is extremely important to eat carbohydrates, as they are our primary energy and nutrient source! But, don't forget that there is a big difference between simple and complex carbohydrates. A general rule that I like to use is that if you can pick that carbohydrates from the earth or from a tree (and it has not been altered and processed), that's the carbohydrate you want to be eating!