I big thanks to Andrew for sending me this article for a guest post! In a day when carbs are demonized, this piece gives some great reasons to keep them in your diet.
Yes, carbs can make you fat. Just ask anyone who downs family-sized bag of potato chips on the sofa every afternoon. But protein can make you fat, too. And so can all those “good fats” you find in fish, nuts, olive oil, and all the other deified health foods we’re told to “fill up” on every day.
Over the past couple of decades, carbs have been dubbed the single culprit of weight gain in America. Everyone has been told to stay away from carb-rich (and other) “bad” foods like the plague. However, the truth is that the majority of foods are not intrinsically bad for us, but rather, we vilify foods by misusing them, and carbs are no exception.
Anything can become harmful if over-consumed, and likewise, most things can be beneficial if consumed in the right portions. Since our bodies use carbs as energy much quicker than proteins or fats, it’s easy for us to overload ourselves with this quick-energy nutrient in one sitting, where whatever energy we don’t use up immediately gets stored as fat.
So, how and why should you really be consuming carbs? Here are five major tips on how to treat carbs and why they’re 110 percent necessary for your well-being.
1. Healthy carbs keep you feeling good and satisfied. Former Biggest Loser coach and world-renowned fitness guru Jillian Michaels advocates for incorporating carbs – the right kinds of carbs – into your diet in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle. “Carbohydrates that are 100 percent whole grain and fiber rich help you feel full because they get absorbed slowly into your system and keep your blood sugar balanced,” she says on her website. Unlike foods high in sugar, refined grains, and starches, foods with plenty of fiber, whole grains, and carb-protein combinations will keep you full and satisfied without an insulin spike and excessive fat storage. Some “good” carbs include, 100 percent whole grain products, oatmeal, quinoa, fibrous fruits and veggies, beans, and lentils.
2. They give you brain power. Carbs are the predominant sources of glucose, the energy your body – and your brain – needs to perform even basic activities. “If you don’t have enough of them, your ability to think, learn, and remember stuff will decrease because neurotransmitters in your brain will not have enough glucose to synthesize properly,” Keri Gans, R.D., author of The Small Change Diet says. It’s no wonder that people on extremely low carb diets suffer from the inability to concentrate – don’t be one of them. When you’re feeling low, you might want to have a nutritious protein bar.
3. You need them if you exercise. Ever wonder how marathon runners finish the race? Answer: carbs. When you put your body through rigorous training, the first source of fuel it turns to is the glycogen stored in your liver – fuel that comes from none other than the carbs you eat. When your glycogen stores are low, you hinder your ability to perform; you’ll feel lethargic during your workout and incredibly sore afterwards, especially if you don’t replenish your glycogen stores. “[W]hen you consume carbs and protein post-exercise, you set your body up to optimally restock glycogen stores for the next run and help rebuild muscles,” Trinh Le, MPH, R.D., says. Le also recommends snacking on a piece of fruit 30-60 minutes before a workout and then replenishing your body with a protein-carb combination such as chocolate milk, a banana and almonds, or a peanut butter sandwich on whole wheat bread.
4. They contain vital nutrients. The macros aren’t everything. Carbs are absolutely vital for us to meet our daily micronutrient quotas. While macronutrients – protein, fat, and carbs – are undoubtedly necessary for survival, micronutrients are important for keeping our hormone levels and immune systems in check. Most micronutrients – vitamins and minerals – are found primarily in carb-rich foods such as produce, legumes, and whole grains.
5. Carbs keep you slim. Seriously. And they do so in a trifecta of ways. Not only do they curb your appetite and help you reach a level of satisfaction faster than any other nutrient during meals, but carbs with what is known as Resistant Starch have actually been known to increase metabolism. According to a popular article in Health.com, Resistant Starch helps with both digestion and the release of metabolism-revving fatty acids into the bloodstream, which causes the body to burn fat at a higher rate than usual. Sound good? Then check out this short list of Resistant Starch foods.
The key to reaping the most benefit out of what you eat in a day is keeping two critical things in mind: quality and quantity. The type of food you consume is just as important as how much you’re eating, especially when it comes to carbs. Even when you’re not home to prepare nutritious means, there are plenty of healthy alternatives to choose from. Just educate yourself and, more importantly, listen to and love your body!
Emily Hunter crafts content on behalf of the protein bar makers at Promax Nutrition. In her spare time, she cheers for Spirit of Atlanta, Carolina Crown and Phantom Regiment, creates her own sodas, and crushes tower defense games. Follow her on Twitter at @Emily2Zen