All You Need to Know about Carbs and Why You Actually Need Them
Carbohydrates – we all like them in all the shapes and forms that aren’t good for us, only to later demonize them when we step on our scales and aren’t happy with the number they show. Whether you’re trying to lose weight to look better or to keep your health in check, the first thing you will hear is that you need to cut out carbs from your everyday diet as much as possible. We’re here to provide some essential information on this subject.
You shouldn’t strive to completely get rid of the carbs because that is neither sustainable nor good for your body. It’s completely acceptable to ingest fewer carbs, but that doesn’t mean you have to fret about every single calorie you eat, it will just stress you out. Instead, it would be wise to concentrate on eating the right kind of carbohydrates, the ones that aid your body function optimally and we’ll talk about those later in the article. For starters let’s cover the basics, so that you understand well why carbs are indispensable for your body to work without a glitch.
What Do Carbs Do For Us?
Along with fats and protein, carbohydrates are one of the macronutrients without which our body wouldn’t be able to sustain itself. The primary role of carbs is that they provide our body with energy it needs for all the processes constantly going on in our system. This means that if you want to have enough energy throughout the day and not feel cranky and exhausted all the time, you need your carbs.
When you consume carbs, they’re the first in line to be the energy source of your metabolism, as it should be. If you don’t get enough carbs into your body, it turns to other options, first of which is protein, followed by fats and alcohol after that. If you’re trying to lose weight and are working out frequently, you need your carbs so that your body doesn’t start eating away the protein in your muscles. It’s completely counterproductive, seeing that you’re actually working your butt off to gain muscle mass, only to lose it because you’re skipping on carbs that are supposed to be used up as your body’s fuel. Now, let us be clear, we’re not saying gorge up on the carbs and forget about all other nutrients you need, on the contrary. You want to have a balanced diet, where both micro and macronutrients are present in the amounts that fit your lifestyle best, which means that struggling to maintain a carb-free diet is utterly pointless, not to mention not sustainable for any long-term fitness goals you might have.
But carbs aren’t essential just when we’re talking about your weight and fitness, your body needs them for virtually every process. First of all, your brain is in dire need of carbs, as they supply your neurotransmitters with glucose, so that they can synthesize in way that helps your learning and thinking processes. Second, carbohydrates are indispensible for the good bacteria in your stomach and intestines that boost digestion. Third, you know how good you feel after you’ve had a carb-rich meal? That’s because this macronutrient triggers the production of serotonin in your blood aka “the happiness hormone.” Finally, simple carbs (the ones you should predominantly consume) contribute to your heart health, seeing that they’re able to keep your cholesterol levels in check. And speaking of carbs that are good or bad for you…
What Kind of Carbs You Need and What You Certainly Don’t
It’s very important to remember that all the time we were talking about how carbs are beneficial for your overall existence, we meant good-for-you simple carbs. It’s crucial to make a difference between carbs that help your body sustain itself in the best way possible and the ones that wreak havoc on your bodily processes and your metabolism aka refined complex carbohydrates.
You will find simple carbs in all the products that come from the soil and are completely natural – fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes. As you know, when you’re trying to lead a healthy lifestyle all of the aforementioned products are more than welcome in your diet, simply because they offer you both the energy and the nutrients your metabolism can put to good use. If you want to provide yourself with plenty of good-for-you carbs during the day, you should go for foods that are rich in them – brown rice and whole wheat pasta, quinoa, yams, sweet potatoes and regular potatoes (in moderation), beans and lentils etc. When it comes to fruits and veggies that are rich both in carbs and vitamins, we recommend going for fresh beets, apples, strawberries, pumpkin, bananas, pineapple, mango, butternut squash, grapes, plums – and this is just the tip of the iceberg. When you’re constantly eating carbs found in natural produce, you will reap numerous benefits that will reflect on your body and your mind.
With good carbs incorporated into your diet, you will eat less and stay full for longer periods of time. Most of these products are also full of fiber, which does wonders for our digestion, not to mention that it keeps insulin and blood sugar in check. Products we’re talking about are usually 100% natural, which means that you won’t have to deal with saturated and trans-fats, sodium and bad cholesterol that abounds in processed foods. Most of the time you will find these foods at farmer’s markets, organic food shops and a wide array of them will allow you to nurture a healthy diet from which you will have a balanced intake of all nutrients you could possibly need.
Wherever you look when you go to the supermarket, you will find complex refined carbs, we’re constantly surrounded by them, which is why we consume them most. While it’s true that eating processed foods gives us an instant rush and the sense of gratification, on the long run, it’s nothing but bad news. Chocolate, chips, dips, burgers, cheeses, snacks, sugary drinks and alcohol have never been beneficial for human body, but still we continue to eat them regularly because we’re used to them. However, these refined carbs are the main cause of chaos in our metabolism, seeing that they’re incredibly calorie-dense, which means that you can have your daily calorie intake in one meal comprised of processed foods. Not only that, but all the foods coming from the factories have nothing to offer to our metabolism, as they’re high in sodium and refined sugars, while being incredibly low in any form of nutrients or fiber. If you’re not certain whether or not a certain type of food is good for you, ask yourself did the product come from nature or from a factory? After that, it will be quite easy to make the right choice.
How Many Carbs a Day Is Enough
This is one of trickier questions that keep getting asked, since people need exact guidelines in creating their eating habits, which is understandable. When it comes to what should macronutrient ratios be in your everyday diet, a lot depends on your gender, age, and physical activity levels, as well as in what shape is your body presently. If you’re a healthy individual, then things will be that much easier, but it’s still a good idea to consult with an expert nutritionist for professional advice. In general it is advised that a grown up should eat around 2,000 calories a day and 45-65% of that intake should come from carbohydrates. Again, this will vary significantly depending on what you want to achieve by modifying your diet – is it weight loss, muscle gain or general well-being? Depending on your goal, your carb intake can be quite unique, which is why we suggest talking to a professional.
When Is the Best Time to Eat Carbs?
Another fact we should all be aware of is that although there are carbs that are good for us, when you eat too much of them or at the wrong time, it can still cause problems like weight gain or sluggishness. You don’t want to eat carb-rich food late at night because your body will not thank you in the morning and you will not be happy with how much you weigh. Like we mentioned a couple of times, carbs are a fuel, so consuming them in the parts of the day when you need most energy is the best way to go.
Filling up on carbs before you exercise is one of the best things you can do when you want to ensure you will have enough energy to get through your workout, especially if it’s a tough one. Having a carb-rich meal an hour or so before you hit the gym will allow your body to use up all the energy from the food and enable you to train to the best of your abilities.
Post-workout carb boost is also something to consider carefully, seeing that after you’re done with all that movement and high intensity workouts, your body used up all the energy you provided it with earlier and now it’s in need of replenishment. Eating carbs after your workouts allows you to avoid that energetic crash and exhaustion, not to mention that your muscles will recover faster and won’t be as sore. It’s important here to eat a wide variety of foods pre and post-workout so that you get all the nutrients you need, plus protein and carbs that feed your metabolism and muscles.
Finally, eating carbs as soon as you wake up is a good idea as well. There’s a simple logic behind this – you’ve slept for 6-8 hours, during which your metabolism used up all the carbs you’ve had in your system and now you need the energy to start off your day right. When your body has been fasting for many hours, you can be sure it will need a boost to allow you do everything that needs to be done and carbs are the best way to make sure this happens.
As you can see, there’s plenty to say about carbs, and we’ve just scratched the surface. If you want to make sure you’re eating right and your diet is balanced, pay close attention to how you feel after you’ve had your meal. Being attentive to your body’s reactions is a great way to monitor what you need more of and what you need to cut down, but one thing’s for sure – don’t run away from carbs, they’re your fuel, rather focus on eating high-quality natural food and you can’t go wrong. – Monica Nichols
Being a writer and fashion designer is a dream come true for Monica Nichols and since she was a child, she knew her artistic tendencies will determine her life. She is a beloved writer of diet.st she is 32 and currently living in Omaha, Nebraska. Monica likes to spend her time doing yoga and going to live jazz gigs whenever the opportunity arises.