(Warning – long post ahead; carbs are very complex molecules!)
Along with the other two macronutrients, they all have their ‘no-go’ reputations and carbs is a big one in this department. What do I believe? I believe there’s absolutely no need to cut anything from your diet. As soon as you deprive your body it not only holds on to every thing else in new ways, but it also makes sticking to your ‘diet’ so much harder than it has to be, and there begins the vicious cycle of losing and gaining fat.
Carbs are at the same level as protein in calories at just 4kcal per 1g of carbohydrates, they’re lower than fat but have a whole load of different benefits and who can say they actually don’t enjoy carbs?! They’re the base of basically all the yummy foods, so please stop depriving yourself of this! Instead, let’s learn when you should be eating carbs, the benefits of them to your body and the different types.
Although carbs are the only macronutrient that is not essential to our bodies, it is however the macronutrient that will provide us with energy and also key when getting our daily intake of fibre.
Consuming enough fibre each day will make the world of difference to how you feel. It adds bulk to your diet, delays emptying of the stomach after meals, remains intact throughout the body and digestion and will help to prevent constipation and some types of cancer too. The best way to get your daily intake of fibre is through fruit and vegetables and complex carbs which add to your fibre intake massively (eg. brown bread, brown rice etc.). Every person should aim for around 20g of fibre per day to stay healthy throughout!
So what are complex carbs? Complex carbs will provide your body with more nutrients than simple carbs purely through being higher in fibre and digesting a lot slower – another benefit being you will be fuller for longer!! Some great sources of complex carbs are fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans and wholegrains.
Simple carbs are sugars. Some of these occur naturally in foods however, most simple carbs are added to foods and drinks such some fizzy drinks, sweets, some cereals and a lot of processed foods. Simple sugars will unfortunately cause a spike in blood sugar and will digest a lot quicker in your body therefore making you hungrier pretty soon after!
Again, it’s not ideal to completely cut these from your diet as you will be depriving yourself from a lot of foods that you like; however I would recommend cutting them down and looking for foods containing more natural sugars like honey and fruit. Take a look at my Healthy Nutty Muesli recipe for an easy and low sugar alternative to shop bought cereal.
When to eat carbs and how much?
How many grams of carbs completely depends on each person, your body type, how much you exercise etc etc. There’s no set amount for anyone and following diets like ‘no carbs after 6pm’ is just following a fad unfortunately.
In terms of when to eat carbs, your body burns uses carbs as an energy source when you take part in high intensity exercise so try to increase your carbohydrate intake on exercise days and decrease it by about 10% on rest days. For maximum results and energy, try to spread your carbohydrates out throughout the day particular pre and post workout.
If you’ve been reading all of my macronutrient posts; you should hopefully by now realise that every food group has it’s important values, we need to stop listening to the ‘cut this out of your diet’ fads and start understanding how our bodies work! Enjoy your food guys, keep the treats in moderation, learn and listen to your body!