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Carbs: The good, the bad, and the evil

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When it comes to dieting, the first thing that many people think is:

  • “I need to go low carb.”
  • “Carbs are evil and I need to cut them out.”
  • “I need to stop eating pasta and bread.”
  • “I need to cut out eating candy completely.”

First things first.  Carbs are not “bad,” “good,” “evil,” “the devil,” or “the enemy.”  Carbs are just carbs.  Depending on your goals, the amount of carbs you will need will be different than someone else.  Sometimes you may need more, sometimes less.

What are carbs?

Let’s take it a step further. Carbs are the sugars, starches, and fibers found in fruits, grains, vegetables, and milk products.  Carbs are the number one way our body gets energy.  If your body was a car, carbohydrates would be the gas we use to fill up the tank. Without gas, your car simply would not move.

Why do I need carbs?

Without carbohydrates, your body will not have enough energy to play sports, lift weights, go to work, or spend time on Instagram.  Carbohydrates are absolutely necessary to function, and they’re even more important when you are working out at a high intensity.

The need for carbohydrates is not limited to the body. Glucose from carbohydrates is the fuel the brain uses to produce the energy that moves and motivates you.  According to Dr. Carol Greenwood, “Not only does a diet lacking in carbohydrates cut off the brain’s main energy supply, a scarcity of glucose can impede the synthesis of acetylcholine, one of the brain’s key neurotransmitters.”

Not only are carbohydrates essential for your body, but without them your brain can not function either!

How much should I be eating?

There is no hard and fast answer to this.  Each body processes carbs differently.  Some of our bodies will perform like a fine tuned machine with carbs. Some of us will feel bloated or lethargic when we eat too many carbs.  The key is to find the right balance.   

As a rule of thumb, you should be eating roughly 110-120% of your bodyweight in grams.  Therefore, if you weigh 200lbs, you should shoot to eat roughly 220g-240g of carbs each day.  

*This is simply a starting point, not a hard and fast rule.   

How do I measure carbs?

As with protein, using a food scale is the most accurate and cost effective way to measure.  They are available on Amazon or any store that sells kitchen tools.  

When it comes to carbohydrates that come out of a package, it is best to use the nutrition label. (i.e. bread, wraps, bagels, crackers, etc.)

In absence of a scale or nutrition label, we have created multiple eyeball measurements to help.  A baseball or your fist are both easy ways to help measure grains and starches.   Below are several picture references.

pasta-portion-baseball

30 gram of carbs of pasta

apple-portion-fist

Fist measurement for fresh fruit
30g-of-carbs-starch-and-grain 30-grams-of-carbs-fruit

How do you know if you are not eating enough carbs?

Not eating enough carbs can show itself in many ways.  The most common are:

  1. Bad headaches or feeling in a fog
  2. Stalled progress at the gym and feeling tired during workouts
  3. Constantly feeling cold or shivering
  4. You are irregular
  5. Bad breath
  6. Stalled progress at the gym
  7. Hungry all the time

Other fun facts about carbs

  1. Every gram of carbs provides 4 calories of energy.  
  2. Most fruits and vegetables are made up of 100% carbs.  
  3. Carbs are the easiest macronutrient for our body to breakdown.

If you are struggling to understand how to apply all the information to your own goals, I can help you develop a custom plan that will be tailored specific to your body, your goals, and your schedule and lifestyle.  We will discuss how much carbs you should be eating and how to even incorporate carbs you deemed as “bad” in the past into your everyday eating. All you need to do is complete the assessment questionnaire.  

This will help me learn a little about where you are and what’s slowing you down, where you’d like to go, and how I can help you get there.  Once you complete the questionnaire, I will be in touch to discuss your answers and decide what to do next.

In the meantime, stayed tuned for our next article where I will discuss common diet myths that you may have fallen prey to.