“I really wanna lose weight… No carbs for me!”
“Is it true that if I want to lose weight I have to stop eating carbs?”
“I’m not going to have that wrap. It has carbs in it!”
Weird stares. Funny stares. I really hate you kind of stare.
Sounds familiar? This is the story about carbohydrates. And I’m going to tell you this.Carbohydrates are not that bad. In fact, I can come up with reasons why you really need carbs to lose weight.
Let’s get comfortable and buckle up because we’re about to take a nice drive on Carbs Lane.
SERIOUSLY THOUGH, WHAT ARE CARBOHYDRATES?
Carbohydrates is a macronutrient (the other two is proteins and fats, you smarty-pants).
And they, if used properly can lead to exceptional health, body composition and performance.The end.
Carbohydrates are classified into three general groups of saccharides (which means sugar in Latin) – we’ve got the monosaccharide, disaccharide and polysaccharide.
Monosaccharide. Mono – One. This includes your glucose, fructose and galactose.
Disaccharide. Di – Two. Includes sucrose, maltose and lactose.
Polysaccharide. Poly – Many. Includes glycogen and starch.
The simplest form of carbs is mono, Captain Obvious. It’s good to know that it doesn’t matter if you have a lactose (usually in the form of milk) or starch (e.g. rice), they will all be broken down into a monosaccharide and be used by our body as glucose. Simply, this means that if you have a plate of pasta, which is a starch, it will end up getting used by our body as glucose. If the body don’t need glucose at that point in time, it will then be stored in the liver or muscles as glycogen.
Typically 20 grams of glucose will circulate in our blood at any given time and our body likes to keep this figure somewhat stable. If this level drops, our body will then tap into our glycogen stores from the liver or muscle and transform it into glucose through a process calledglycogenesis.
Now because our liver and muscles have a limit to how much glycogen they can actually store, any excess dietary carbs taken in by us will be converted into fats for storage instead. That is probably why carbs has always been linked to increased fat mass in individuals. And that’s not pretty awesome at all.
NOT ALL CARBS ARE THE SAME
Like everything else in life, not all carbs are created equal. The type of carbs we eat have a direct impact on our body composition, health and performance so it’s good to know what we’re eating.
Carbohydrates are simply divided into three different types.
1. Slow digesting, unprocessed carbohydrates
These type of carbs are predominantly found in fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains. If you’re working towards any type of fitness goals, these are the carbs you want to try to have more. Why? Simply because these carbohydrates are digested and absorbed slowly, helping control our blood sugar levels, insulin concentrations, energy levels and ultimately our body composition.
2. Fast digesting, processed carbohydrates
These type of carbs are predominantly found in refined foods such as white bread, white pasta, packaged oats, bars, cereals and all other sugary treats we tend to have. Although they’re alright to have once in a while, it’s good to know that these carbs enter our bloodstream at a rapid pace – thus there will be higher elevations to our blood sugar leading to diseases such as high blood pressure and diabetes.
The thing is, fast digesting carbs are not all that bad. Athletes, especially those training for high endurance events such as long distance running, use it all the time to improve their performance. You may have heard about marathon runners constantly eating (or drinking) carbs during their race – simply because their demand for fast acting carbohydrates is high.
You may have heard too about Glycaemic Index.
Glycaemic Index (GI) is simply a number, on a scale of 1-100 that measures a certain food on how fast it can raise our blood sugar, in comparison to glucose. That being said, pure glucose has a GI of 100 and if you’re consuming something with a GI close to that, it’s as good as just eating glucose.
The most amazing thing here is that, researchers from Harvard University has found that eating things like white bread, white pasta and other refined carbs gives our body the effects almost identical to having just glucose. Yikes!
So, unless you are running a marathon or you’re an athlete preparing for an endurance event, this type of carbs is better left on the shelf far away from your system.
Last but not least, Fibre. Fibre has shown to lower blood cholesterol, reduce risk of colon cancer and of course, increase bowel movements. Fibre can be classified into two – soluble, that is it dissolves in water and insoluble – it does not dissolve in water. High fibre foods increases satiety, which means it makes us feel full for longer. The problem is, we simply don’t have enough of them.
Foods containing high in fibre are generally unprocessed and slow-acting carbohydrates. Ideally we should be aiming to have about 30g of fibre a day. Here are some examples.
Foods with a great source of fibre:
– oats and oats bran
– fruits such as apples, bananas and oranges
– veggies such as green beans and green leafy
SO WHY ARE CARBS ALWAYS GIVEN A BAD REP?
If carbs are great, then why are they always perceived to be bad?
Good question, Alice. And I’ve got just the reasons for you.
We’re taking in way too much carbs than our body can handle.
And our body don’t need much carbs at all because we have our liver and muscle glycogen stores. It does not matter what you eat, as long as you have too much of it in the body, it will be converted as fats. And that includes your protein and fats.
For most of us, unless you’re Michael Phelps or Stephanie Rice (hello!), the absolute physiological minimum that our body need is 30 grams. If for example in any given day we don’t have enough carbs, our body as a smart cookie, can tap into our protein and fat stores to convert them into glucose.
But wait a minute. If that’s the case then I don’t need carbs at all.
Your body’s preferred energy source is still carbs and for any kind of physical activity that we carry out in our daily life, energy will still need to be in the form of glucose. Just don’t go to overboard and have 500g of carbs every day because that’s when you can kiss your weight loss goals goodbye.
It comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes.
Milk is carbs, bread is obviously carbs. Orange juice is carbs and so are oranges. The coke you’re having with your pizza (again, carbs!) has carbs. They’re everywhere. And it is hard to keep track if you don’t know what you’re eating. This of course will lead to excessive carbohydrate consumption and ultimately weight gain. In this case, not knowing what carbs are makes carbohydrates look bad.
Just be informed, that’s all. And that’s why I’m here.
‘Bad’ carbohydrates exists. And it’s there to make all carbs look bad.
As much as I don’t like classifying any type of food as bad, this is a perfect example of how people tend to stereotype carbohydrates.
And it’s very much like your classmate Lil Johnny in Year 6 who constantly cause a stir and gets into trouble. Just because of that one kid, the rest of the class looks bad. It’s just a pity that carbohydrates do have some sort of goodness in them and not everybody sees it that way.
ALRIGHT NOW, WHY DO I NEED CARBS TO LOSE WEIGHT?
Now that we know that carbs are not all that bad, I’ve got some really good news for you my Pretty Awesome weight loss gang.
Carbs gives you energy. Which your body needs to burn calories. As I’ve mentioned before, carbs is still our body’s preferred fuel for energy, particularly our brain and nervous system.
Carbs makes you feel fuller for longer, and I mean the unprocessed carbs, especially the ones with lower GI. It enhances satiety which means it’s tough to overeat when you’re feeling full.
Some great examples of good carbs include:
– sweet potato or potatoes
– whole wheat pasta or wrap
– whole grain bread
– long grain or brown rice
– fruits especially berries
– all sorts of vegetables.
Replace your refined carbs with those from the list and you can see you weight loss sky rocketing up high.
High fibre carbohydrates promotes bowel movement, essential for getting rid of waste and toxins from our body. I find that if I don’t have enough carbs on my low or no carb days, I can go bloated and be massively constipated for days. Eating high fibre, unprocessed carbohydrates ensures you’re on time for that toilet run every day, getting rid of toxins and wastes product not needed in your body.
Don’t lie to me but carbs tastes good. Seriously, would you rather have grilled chicken breast on its own or grilled chicken breast with a side of whole-grain pasta? Not only that the latter provides you with a complete meal, it’s way more tastier than just having the chicken on it’s on.
The good news is, you won’t feel deprived by the fact that you’re not having carbs. Ask anyone who is on a low carb or no carb diet and most of the time they will tell you it’s really tough.Depriving yourself of something like this increases your cortisol levels, making fat loss harderso ease up little lady and have some carbs. Really.
Carbohydrates makes you feel good too! According to a research done by the Institute of Food Research, Reading, carbohydrate acts as a mood regulator. Feeling much better with adequate and appropriate carbohydrates will definitely increase your performance in the gym and thus increase weight loss.
OK, NOW TEACH ME HOW TO HAVE CARBOHYDRATES PROPERLY.
If you’re on this path great. Today’s post is very educational, which means that if you don’t put these words into actions, it’ll just become useless.
If you’re already having unprocessed carbohydrates, great. If you’re having more refined carbohydrates than the unprocessed ones, read on. But if you’re one of those who labels carbohydrates as ‘bad’ because that magazine you’re reading says so, then this part is for you.
Action plan for non-carb eaters:
1. Focus on having your unprocessed, high fibre carbs. They’re essential for your physiological and mental functioning.
2. Try and have a fist sized of those carbs for breakfast and lunch. You can have the starchy ones here. For dinner, replace the starchy carbs with green leafy vegetables or vegetables in general. They still contain carbohydrates in small amounts but it’s fine because you don’t need it to sleep.
3. Change your mindset about everything you’ve heard about carbs. If a diet requires you to eliminate any major food group, then you’re in for a big trouble. Diet is not a one off thing that you do. It’s a lifestyle so make it work for your life.
I THINK I REALLY LOVE MY WHITE RICE.
Fair enough handsome man. Growing up in an Asian family forces me to love white rice without a choice so it’s ok now, I know how it feels. And with any type of changes you can either give up white processed carbohydrates completely and go cold turkey or you can slowly give them up for the unprocessed, high fibre cups. I’m a big fan of the second option because I can literally break down if I have a huge lifestyle overhaul, so take it slow.
Action plan for you white rice lovers:
– Slowly limit the number of times a day that you have processed carbs. Even if it takes you a year. If you’re having white rice twice a day every day, have only once a day. And slowly but surely it’ll become once every two days. And after some time, you’ll probably only going to have them once a month. Or none at all.
– If you need to have processed carbs, have it right before your workout. There’s a greater chance the quick glucose intake will be burned off during your workout so it’s not at all a bad thing.
– Don’t do it alone. Seek help from your close family members. Support is king.
At the end of the day, always understand that you’re in control and having treats like these occasionally because you consciously want them is perfectly fine. Just remember that you can change and you’re strong enough to do so.
Alright that’s it for today!
I would love to hear your thoughts.
How do you feel about carbs?
Have you ever gone on a low-no carb diet and why?
Pop me a message on the comment box below. Have a good week ahead. :)