Carbs-Friend or Foe?

Grain products are often baked, and are rich s...

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On the road to weight loss, some people will cut carbs right out of their diet.  This may actually help them lose weight quickly, but what happens when they begin to eat normally again?  Chances are the weight will come back just as fast as it disappeared.  So what are you supposed to do if you want to lose weight?  And why do carbohydrates have a bad rap?

The role of carbohydrates is to provide energy, to preserve protein from being broken down and used for energy, assist in the oxidation of fat, and to be stored and used as energy.  How big of a role do carbs play in energy production?  Huge.   I recently did an experiment to see how long I could go without eating any sort of carbohydrate excluding vegetables.  The first few days were fine, but after that I began to fatigue very quickly both physically and mentally.  I lasted 10 days and had to start eating some carbs again, but in controlled quantities.

There are many different types of carbohydrates.  So to make it easier to follow,  I have listed the four basic categories and examples of each below.

Complex Carbohydrates.  These are broken down slower than simple carbohydrates therefore providing a gradual steady stream of energy throughout the day.  This is best for weight loss.  Examples are whole grain breads, oats, brown rice, root vegetables, whole wheat pasta, peas, beans, lentils, squash, and pumpkin.

Simple Carbohydrates.  These are broken down rapidly and used for quick energy.  Examples are glucose, fructose (found in fruits and veggies), galactose (found in milk), sucrose (table sugar), lactose (milk sugar), and maltose (grain sugar).  The problem with this type of carbohydrate is if you eat more than your body can burn, the rest can be stored as fat.

Carbohydrates that contain soluble fiber.  These help to control blood sugar and may help lower cholesterol.  Examples are oat bran, oatmeal, beans, legumes, peas, carrots, barley, and bananas.

Carbohydrates that contain non soluble fiber. These may help reduce the risk of colon cancer and help to maintain bowel function.  Examples are whole wheat breads, cabbage, barley, beets, turnips, cauliflower, and brussel sprouts.

The recommended intake for carbohydrates is 55 % of your daily caloric needs.  Athletes require at least 65% of their daily caloric needs to be made of carbohydrates.  These calories should be provided throughout the day in small, but frequent meals.  You should aim to eat a balanced meal or snack consisting of protein, carbs and fat every 3-4 hours as this will help regulate your blood sugar and keep your metabolism going.  The reason why carbohydrates are a problem for those who want to lose weight is because they eat way too many.  The carbs that are not used as fuel are used to replenish your glycogen stores (energy) and once that is full the excess is stored as fat.  So if you are eating beyond what you require in a day for energy, then the excess can be stored as fat, which in turn means more time exercising to try to burn it off.  You can see how this becomes an endless cycle. 

By learning how to properly incorporate carbs into your meal plan, you will be very successful at reaching your goal.  It is a bit tricky in the beginning to figure it out, but be patient.  Watch how your body responds to what you are eating and make the adjustments necessary.  If you are really unclear about just how to go about doing all of this, I highly recommend 1 session with a registered dietician.  They will have the resources and the know how to be able to guide you along the way.


About Lisa

Lisa is a Certified Personal Trainer who is passionate about fitness and living an active lifestyle. She has a strong background in nutrition, having been a Chef for almost 15 years and applies this knowledge to helping her clients achieve their goals.
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