Carbohydrates have recently been under a lot of scrutiny in the weight loss world. Many people think carbs are what is making them hold onto, or gain more fat on their frame. But, are carbs really to blame for that? I’ll answer that in a minute, first lets talk about what carbohydrates are, and what they do.
Carbohydrates can come in two forms, simple and complex, and both get broken down by your body into sugars, which is how your body uses them as energy. We’ll start with simple carbs. You can probably guess what simple carbs mostly look like. They are generally going to be things that are more like “treats.” For example, white bread, candies, cakes, pies, and pop (or soda, depending on where you are in the world) are all types of simple carbs. Ok, you’ve definitely had some experience with these carbs. I know I have! So what then is a complex carbohydrate? A complex carb has more to it than a simple carb. Complex carbs come from more fiber and starch based foods. A few examples of complex carbs are Potatoes, oats, fruits, vegetables, and whole grain rice/pasta. Don’t sound as exciting do they?
Ok, that is a really quick and easy difference between the two. Hopefully you’ll be able to tell which is which, and I’m sure you’ve heard people suggest that you limit the amount of simple carbs you eat, and try to get more complex carbs. I suggest that to clients all the time. But, why? What is the actual benefit or harm between simple and complex carbs? It has to do with how they digest, and the nutritional benefits between the two types.
Carbs and weight loss
Carbs seem to have a big connection in the media and fitness world lately. Carbohydrates definitely play a role in weight loss, but weight loss is still, and always will be based on eating fewer calories than you burn. No matter what type of calories they are, you have to burn more calories than you eat in order to lose weight. Now, Many people think you shouldn’t eat any carbs, ever. Many people think you should eat a high carb diet. I’m of the opinion that you need carbs to survive, but finding the proper nutrient dense carbs (complex carbs) is the best way to do it.
Here’s why: Complex carbs can help fuel your body and provide a sustained energy supply to help you get through your day. Your brain also depends on carbs to function properly, so cutting them out of your diet all together isn’t a good idea. Simple carbs give you a little bit of energy, for a little bit of time. Then you crash…bummer, your boss found you sleeping on your keyboard…nobody wants that.
Simple carbs are probably helping to store a little bit of that winter insulation around your midsection…nobody wants that either. Why does this happen? When you eat simple carbohydrates (mostly sugar) your body digests them really quickly because there isn’t much of a nutrient composition for your body to break down. Remember, simple carbs are mostly made of sugar. When this happens all that sugar (that’s what carbs get broken down into in your body) gets into your blood stream, like ASAP. It’s like doing the self checkout at Target with only one item, no time at all. All that sugar in your blood stream causes your insulin levels to elevate, which isn’t a good thing in this scenario. Insulin tells your body to use that sugar as energy or to store it as fat. But with all that sugar getting into your blood stream so fast, your body can’t use it all as energy, so guess what happens to it…..that’s right, it becomes that muffin top, or those bat wings…bummer.
Complex carbs also get broken down into sugars, but there is a big difference between the two that gives complex carbs the better outcome. Complex carbs have more fiber. At Target, complex carbs are the worst. thing. EVER! They are like the new kid checking you out for the first time and you bought one of everything from the store…there goes your Saturday… But in nutrition, Fiber is your friend, fiber takes way longer for your body to digest than most things (if your body can digest it at all, that’s a different topic though). This is the main factor in which type of carbohydrate you should choose to eat. Because of the fiber it contains, and being so nutrient dense, complex carbs digest at a much slower rate. In turn, this provides your body with a longer lasting energy source. Only a little bit of that sugar gets let into the blood stream at a time, just enough that your body can use it as that energy and not have to store the extra amounts as body fat. See the difference?
Complex carbs and Simple carbs are opposite of your Target visit. At Target you want to be fast and efficient (simple carbs), not slow and steady (complex carbs). But if you remember from my previous article, you want your body to be the opposite of efficient. So, slow and steady wins the race.
When to eat simple vs complex?
The best time to eat simple carbs is around your workout. Right before works, but in my opinion right after your workout is THE BEST time. That’s when your body can use all that extra energy right away instead of having to store it as body fat. After your workout your body will be depleted of its energy sources and will be craving those carbs to help rebuild your muscle and recover from your brutal workout. What? Your workout isn’t brutal? You’re not lifting enough weight then.
Any other time of day, I would suggest basing your meals around 1) your protein source, 2) a complex carb, then 3) your fat source.
Now, I’m not saying your can’t ever eat a donut again. But, if you are trying to lose body fat, you’ll need balanced meals with a complex carb that will keep you fuller for longer, and will give you some helpful nutrients along with it. oh yeah, and to eat fewer calories than you burn in the day.
I hope this helps you understand a little but more about how your food choices affect your waist line, and as always if you’ve got questions send them my way right here!
Choose wisely today,