If I had a dollar for every time someone said to me, “I need to lose weight. I am just going to cut carbs from my diet” I could buy my own private island. Okay, that may be a bit of a stretch, but it’s also a stretch to think that depriving your body of its most important energy source is a healthy and reasonable way to meet your goals.
In a world fueled by “low-carb” fixes to everything, it’s easy to believe that all carbohydrates are bad. I am here to tell you that carbs are not bad! In fact, carbs are the very thing that keeps your body going throughout the day. No matter if you are trying to lose weight, gain lean muscle, bulk, lean out, or maintain; carbs are your friends.
Now, let me break down carbs for you. Contrary to popular belief, carbs are contained in more foods than just bread, pasta, rice and potatoes. Starchy vegetables contain carbs, fruit contains carbs, and even your favorite protein bar contains carbs. There are two types of carbohydrates: simple carbs and complex carbs. Simple carbs are your white breads, refined sugars, cakes and pastas. Complex carbs are foods such as brown rice, whole grains, oats, quinoa, beans and vegetables. Complex carbs take longer to digest, which means they will give you lasting energy and help keep you fuller for longer; this is key when training.
If you are doing any type of training or working out, the most important times to eat carbs are 1-2 hours before your training session and 15 minutes-1 hour after your training session. Carbs are important beforehand so you have the energy to push your body through the session, especially if you have long, intense training sessions. Carbs are important after your training session because, after expending energy during your session, your body needs to be replenished.
Remember this equation:
Carbohydrates + Protein = the perfect post-workout meal
I want you to keep three objects in mind as you continue reading: a cell phone, a cell phone charger and a backup charging phone case.
Carbohydrates are the main energy source of the body. When carbs are all used up the body turns to fats for energy; when the fats are all used up the body starts using your muscles for energy. When your body uses your muscles for energy your muscles will begin depleting – this is something we want to avoid.
Let’s go back to the cell phone, the cell phone charger and the backup charging phone case. Your body is the phone, carbohydrates are the charger and fats are the backup charging case.
Let’s say you charge your phone using a phone charger in the morning and your phone is at 100%. Throughout the day, you notice your battery is quickly draining. Instead of using your phone charger to replenish your battery you decide to use your backup charging phone case. Your phone case doesn’t give your phone nearly as much battery power as your phone charger would and, before you know it, your phone has run out of battery. That’s what happens when we don’t replenish our bodies with carbohydrates; you will use up your fat stores and your muscle will be the next in line to get used up.
The tricky part is knowing the appropriate amount of carbs to eat to meet your personal goals.
Bottom Line: Try all the low-carb substitutes you desire, but don’t deprive your body of nutrient rich, complex carbohydrates throughout the day. Complex carbohydrates will ensure that your body stays energized throughout the whole day, and in conjunction with adequate protein/fat intake and proper training, carbohydrates will keep propelling you toward reaching your goals.