Sorry for the delay on my posts. It’s been a busy 6 weeks, but I’m back on a schedule so I hope you guys enjoy my next posts.
Today I’d like to squash the “carbs make you fat” thing. First off, they don’t. Eating too many calories every day makes you hold onto fat. Period. But I’ll agree that they can make it more difficult to lose fat if you do it incorrectly (notice I talk about FAT loss and not WEIGHT loss. This is crucial).
At this point I’d like to point out that I think most Americans consume too many carbohydrates. A lot of RD’s might give me shit for this, but I think this needs to be put into perspective. I mean, how many of us sit in front of a computer for 8 hours a day? And even if you don’t sit in front of a computer all day, how active are you really? Carbs fuel our brain and muscles among other things, so a lack of carbs will obviously lead to decreased performance both at the office and in the gym. But how much is enough and what is too much?
To answer the first question, it is generally recognized that we require about 100-125 grams of CHO (this is short for carbohydrate because typing carbohydrate over and over sucks) per day to prevent ketosis. Ketosis is a state in our bodies where there is an excess of ketone bodies present in the blood (they are produced in the liver). This does not occur after just a day or two on a very low CHO diet, but typically after an extended period of time because our body is running off of our adipose tissue stores (fat). However, since I stated earlier that our brain runs off of glucose (CHO), something has to give. Without getting too technical, ketone bodies are special in that they can cross what is known as the blood-brain barrier. Once across that barrier, they can enter the Krebs Cycle with the help of acetyl-CoA and can create glucose for the brain to run on. How amazing are our bodies?! However, this is meant to be a short-term deal and if it continues for an extended period of time, we can develop what is known as ketoacidosis. Essentially the pH levels in our bodies drop (become more acidic) due to the acidic nature of the ketone bodies. An unbalanced pH can lead to a host of problems that I wont delve into today.
The second question from above is a bit more difficult to answer, mainly because it is dependent on each individual. For instance, a marathon runner in training may require as much as 8-10 grams or more of CHO per kilogram of bodyweight whereas folks who type at a desk all day are more in the range of needing only a couple of grams per kilo per day. But regardless of all of this, for the lay public, it is quite easy to overdo it on CHO. After all, it’s found in SO MANY products. Sugar is one of, if not the number 1, food additive out there because it’s so damn cheap (HFCS anyone?). In addition to that, who doesn’t like bread, pasta, rice, cupcakes, cookies, frosting, candy, etc. These foods all provide what I like to call “right now” energy and they are the reason that when we are fasted or just really hungry, we don’t crave broccoli, we crave these foods instead. And from a physiological standpoint, that makes a bunch of sense. However, if not paired with the right foods, we can get a pretty drastic insulin response and subsequent dampening of using our adipose tissue stores for energy and will rely more heavily on what we just consumed. Not exactly what you’re looking for if fat loss is a goal of yours.
You also may have heard of the Glycemic Index (GI). This was developed for diabetics to help identify foods that may affect their blood sugar. Some jackass decided to try to profit off of it as a means of weight loss. Don’t pay any attention to it. All of those values that you see if you decide to check out a graph of the foods, are based on consuming ONLY that food. How many people do you know that sit down and just eat a plain potato and nothing else. Exactly. So unless you have DMI or DMII, don’t fret over it.
Another carb thing that you’ll hear often is complex vs. simple. This basically refers to the way each CHO is digested. Examples of complex CHO include 100% whole grain rice, pasta, bread, cereals, and non-starchy vegetables. Basically they take a while for our bodies to break down into glucose to use for fuel. This means that the insulin response is minimized and the energy consumed is spread out over an extended period of time. On the opposite end of the spectrum we have simple CHO. These lead to a drastic insulin response and are used up much more quickly. Some examples include sugar, some fruits, juices, sodas, and white rice, pasta, and breads. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (the organization that lets me have the RD credential) suggests that we have at least half of our CHO intake come from whole grains. I say why not 95%? It’s not any more expensive and unless being consumed post workout, is flat out the better choice for many reasons. Whole grains are higher in fiber as well, which is not only beneficial to digestive health, but also helps with satiety, thereby leaving us feeling fuller for longer.
But what about CHO at bedtime or in the evening? I know a lot of people who avoid them altogether because they are afraid that they will store it as fat as they sleep at night. Whelp, unless you are in a caloric surplus for the day, that just ain’t gonna happen. Yep, that’s a myth. As a matter of fact, there is some research out there that shows INCREASED metabolic rate as you sleep. Crazy, huh? Also, CHO helps to keep serotonin levels elevated. This can have a calming effect and actually help you sleep more soundly. This can lead to greater levels of hormone release overnight as well as have you waking up refreshed and more likely to kill you training session. See the connection?
The bottom line is this: You can gain weight from consuming too much from any of the 4 macronutrient groups (fat, carbohydrate, protein, alcohol). Sure, the thermic effect of each of those differs greatly, but for the purposes of this blog today I think this will suffice. The right combination of these macros (sans alcohol) is what leads to a healthy body.
So there you have it. Carbs aren’t your enemy, you just need to learn how to utilize them properly. So yeah, if you know someone who is struggling with this issue, have them read this or send them to my website: www.fgnutrition.com