“Carbs” are bad. Protein is good. Fat is (now) ok. Artificial sweeteners are worse than sugar, and sugar is the devil. Do a Google images search for “evil sugar.” I’ll wait…Sweeping statements like these only serve to confuse the issues that we face. There are certain universal truths when we talk about nutrition, but “low carb” being “healthy” is not one of them. And the biggest reason I say this is guess what is abundant in all fruits and vegetables. Just guess. Yup, “carbs!”
The reason I hate this so much, I think, is that ALL macronutrients are essential for life. Cutting one completely is dangerous (and pretty impossible, since all food is made up of a combination of the three). Cutting a lot of multiple food groups at once, as many low carb diets tend to do, is just not a good idea.
Listen, I hear ya. The reason we are concerned with carbs is that sugar (glucose) is usually responsible for spike in blood sugar that can lead to insulin resistance, as well as type II diabetes. That is bad, totally. 100%. However, we don’t have that issue when whole foods are consumed in whole meals full of all macronutrients. The mere presence of protein and fat in the meal seriously slows down the absorption of carbs, so that big spike shouldn’t happen very often at all.
But what is bad is also good! Glucose, while creating insulin resistance in excess, is essential to the brain. In fact, it is your brain’s source of energy through glycolysis. It is super important! Without them we wouldn’t be able to do anything with ourselves due to the brain fog and just lack of coordination!
And, don’t forget how incredibly necessary it is for your muscles!! Don’t believe me? Just ask this guy:
Your body just needs its fuel! If you are going to the gym (and we should all be at least active for 30 minutes a day) you’re gonna need it to see gains. No question. Every time you do an intense workout, you need to have some sort of recovery plan. The simplest one I know of that provides the required 4:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein is chocolate milk. That is also great, because it is widely accessible and way cheaper than a lot of the formulations out there.
So now we know why it is important and also why we would potentially think that limitation would be beneficial. It really is a two-pronged issue, but as with all things, moderation is key. So how do we start going smart carb rather than low carb? Easy – just eat complex carbohydrates more than simple ones.
The reason complex carbohydrates are so awesome is that the “sugar” in them is a lot harder to split up and more of them are linked together. Because of this, we don’t get that drastic spike that we don’t want since they take so much longer to digest. Everything on the right there?? Spike city. Not to mention that complex carbs are LOADED with vitamins and minerals as well that keep our bodies in tip top shape. And the fibre? Well we know what fibre does. Or as one of mu nutrition professors said, “it gives the bowels a massage.” And who doesn’t LOVE a massage??
Does that mean that you can never have bread, pasta or cereal again? No. Does it mean that you should make sure you don’t have any of them on their own often? You betcha. Add some nuts and fruit to your cereal (that way you eat less of the cereal), which will slow down the absorption of the individual sugars as well since you ill be adding fat, protein, and fibre. Or add veggies and protein to your rice. Both of these have the added benefit of being delicious.
Does it mean you should limit them and really focus on WHOLE foods and complex carbohydrates? Darn right. Anytime a diet asks you to give something up, see that as a big red flag. Even if it does work for you, it is not sustainable. You will end up right back where you started. Make the healthy choices and be patient with slower than instant progress, and you’ll get there. Health – it’s a marathon, not a sprint.