Why You Shouldn’t Give Up Carbs
Bread is not evil. Rebecca Matthews on Unsplash.
Every January, many people will resolve to lose weight, get fitter, or improve themselves in some other way. With those resolutions often come dietary restrictions or fad diets (which people often implement blindly because they saw someone else following the same plan). Low-carb and keto diets become especially popular around the New Year because like fats, carbs have a bad rap. However, you shouldn’t give up carbs as part of your 2021 resolutions — here’s why.
- Carbs provide quick fuel
While fats technically provide more energy per gram (nine calories per gram versus the four calories per gram from carbs), carbohydrates provide the quickest energy. Your body can break down carbs faster than it can break down fat or protein, which is how carbs get their reputation of being a great pre-workout food.
- Carbs replenish fuel reserves
It’s time to end the fear of carbs. Wilfred Wong on Unsplash.
Your muscles contain a substance called glycogen, a stored form of carbohydrates. Your muscles release glycogen when your body requires more fuel than what’s available in your bloodstream as glucose, and eating carbohydrates replenishes glycogen stores lost through exercise. If you don’t eat carbs, your glycogen stores will deplete, but your body will eventually learn how to burn fat instead (the interim is often called the “keto flu”). Keeping your glycogen stores full is the most efficient way to fuel your body for exercise, especially high-volume or endurance-based exercise.
- Carbs provide essential nutrients
If you completely cut out carbs, you can put yourself at risk for nutrient deficiencies if you don’t get certain nutrients from other foods. For example, carbohydrate-rich foods including sweet potatoes, rice, quinoa, and starchy vegetables contain a range of nutrients, such as vitamins A and B and minerals like magnesium.
- Complex carbs keep you full
Carbs like these provide energy and nutrients, and they keep you full. Markus Spiske on Unsplash.
Complex carbohydrates are those that contain fiber and starch, versus simple carbohydrates which just contain sugar. Generally, the more complex the carb, the longer it will keep you full. If you’re trying to lose weight, eating a diet rich in complex carbs can help with appetite control. Complex carbs include foods like whole-grain bread and rice, ancient grains like amaranth, most vegetables, fiber-rich fruits such as apples and berries, and beans. Nuts and seeds also contain complex carbs, although they’re more of a fat source than a carb source.
- Carbs support healthy digestion
A low-fat diet might leave you looking like the fittest person on earth, but is it worth it if you’re dealing with chronic digestion issues? Many people fare just fine on a low-carb diet, but others find themselves with constipation, cramping, and other unpleasant symptoms. Complex carbohydrates support your digestive tract and your microbiome by providing fiber and prebiotics.
Choosing the right carbs for your goals
All carbs can fit into a healthy diet. Christopher Ott on Unsplash.
Nix the idea that there are “good” and “bad” carbs. All types of carbohydrates serve a purpose. Some types are more nutrient-dense than other types — that’s all. All types of carbs can fit into a healthy diet when eaten for the right purposes.
Your body breaks down sugar from candy and sugar from a banana just the same. Your body turns pasta and brown rice into the same thing. It all ends up as sugar. What matters is how, when, and in what quantities you eat these foods. For instance, your body can utilize the carbs in candy if you eat the candy shortly before you work out. Your body can’t utilize that energy as efficiently if you eat the candy and then plop on the couch for three hours.
On the flip side, your body can’t break down complex carbs like those found in whole grains as easily as it can break down simple carbs. So, if you need a very quick source of fuel (such as in the middle of a workout), candy can benefit you more than fibrous carbs.
If you feel overwhelmed about nutrition for fitness, ask your local World Gym what nutrition and training services they offer.