We’re doing a short series on macronutrients. What are they? What is their function? How do you source them?
We’ve already covered the essential macronutrient protein—make sure you check out that post.
Here, we’ll discuss carbohydrates, the macro everyone loves to hate.
Are Carbs Bad?
Carbs are often villainized despite their importance in helping us live happy, active and healthy lives. Broad, sweeping generalizations and fear mongering are largely to blame. This is rampant in the diet and nutrition world. It’s one of the reasons elimination diets are so popular, too.
At 204 Lifestyle, we encourage you to use an inclusive approach to nutrition as much as possible. Barring any allergies or sensitivities, an inclusive approach to food will set you up to succeed because your adherence in the long term will be better.
With an inclusive approach, you allow yourself reasonable quantities of foods you enjoy, and you plan to accommodate these foods. You don’t ban anything because it’s “bad.”
And let’s face it: A lot of delicious foods contains carbohydrates.
What Do Carbs Do?
Carbohydrates are made up of three components: fiber, starch and sugar. They are stored as glycogen in your liver and muscles.
Your body has a preferred energy substrate: glucose. Whether you lift weights, run, swim, dance or bike your body will first source energy from stored glycogen. It’s fast, readily available (if you’ve eaten enough) and easily converted into energy.
Here is where the waters start to get murky and overall confusion sets in. There is a difference between simple carbs and complex carbs.
Simple carbs: An easy example of a simple carbohydrate is white table sugar. It’s broken down quickly and supplies fast-acting energy. Simple sugars also occur naturally in milk, milk products and fruit.
Complex carbs: Examples of complex carbs are oatmeal, yams, brown rice, quinoa and legumes. Complex carbs have more fibre and other nutrients and take longer to digest and absorb. They are less likely to cause major swings in blood-sugar levels. They also supply energy for exercise and non-exercise activities. The fibre helps with digestion, gut health and controlling cholesterol.
Simple carbs are often found in hyper-palatable foods, which people tend to over consume. This is where carbs get a bad reputation.
The fact is, these foods are designed not for nutrition but for taste, and they contain the perfect balance of sugar, salt and fat to create a “bliss point.”
Baked goods and pastries are great examples of hyper-palatable foods. These foods taste delicious and keep us coming back for more.
When we stop eating these kinds of foods, we’re not just cutting out carbs; we’re also eliminating a lot of calories from fats, too. It’s highly inaccurate to suggest that carbs alone are responsible for causing weight gain and other health-related issues. Highly processed foods engineered by food scientists are a more likely culprit.
How to Manage Carbs
We have an easy solution that allows you to eat carbs—even the carbs that might not be ideal for nutrition.
We call it the 80/20 Rule: 80 percent of your intake should be whole foods. Nothing processed, nothing added, just food as natural as you can get. In terms of carbs, think healthy starches, vegetables and fruits.
The other 20 percent can be carbs that aren’t natural if that’s what you’re craving.
Striking that balance will help you stay healthy, energized and happy, and it will keep you on track with your health and fitness goals.
If you’re confused about where to start, we can help. We’ll help you stop taking foods out of your life and start adding them in. We’ll figure out exactly what helps you perform and feel your best.
And there might be some carbs in the plan. Carbs aren’t bad. They’re fuel, and we can show you how to use carbs and enjoy them!