Part 1 of don’t fear the carb!
Are you afraid of carbs?? Is the four letter word: “CARB.” a bad word in your vocabulary? So many of us cringe merely at the mention of it. Carbohydrates are not that scary, in fact, you need them… Im going to tell you why.
Not all carbs are created equal.
Carbohydrates come in many different forms like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes (beans). Many of the popular “trend” diets such as Atkins and the 4 Hour Body have taught us that eating carbs will cause us to gain weight by converting into sugar (and then fat) in our bodies. Let me clear some things up.
Carbs can be broken down into two categories. First there are refined, or simple carbs such as white bread, white pasta, baked goods, white rice, flour tortillas, etc… These refined (white) carbs are stripped of their fiber and nutrients and are then further refined and bleached. They turn into simple sugars in the body, which then causes a spike in insulin levels and can cause us to gain weight.
Then we have complex carbs, which is what our bodies need!!
These are fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. Complex carbs are packed with fiber, micro nutrients, vitamins, and minerals that are essential to our health. Complex carbs are what provide our body with glucose (energy) – which is absolutely essential to normal brain and nervous system functioning.
Here is the truth about gaining weight from eating carbs – it depends mostly on the type of carbohydrates you are consuming. If you were to eat a diet high in refined or simple carbohydrates (mentioned above), then yes, you will most likely gain weight as they break down to simple sugars and are easily digested, which means you feel hungrier faster.
Now, complex carbs are awesome! They are made up of mostly fiber and other essential nutrients and take much longer to digest, keeping you fuller longer.
They will actually help you lose weight and keep it off for good.
If you deprive your body of the carbohydrates it needs for too long, your body will begin to crave them and will start to convert dietary protein stored in your muscles into glucose (energy) by breaking down your muscle mass.
Its important to find a balance in your carbohydrate consumption.
Im going to tell you the benefits of eating carbs – so you might not want to skip the carbs!! You may agree with me about the importance of carbs, and finding that balance.
Let’s start with carbohydrates and how they can reduce mental and physical stress!!
Carbohydrates spike insulin and during that process, they blunt a cortisol response in the body. Cortisol is a stress hormone that rises, as stress is high.
This can be good at the right times!
If we have cortisol spiking at the wrong times, like at bed time, or chronically spiking so that we never come down from a stressful state – that can be trouble!
But if we have cortisol spike at the right times, like in the morning when we need it to wake us up or when we want to go harder in the gym – we’re going to be more alert and see better results.
So carbs can help us control and lower this stress response… we now have a tool that can allow us to lower stress levels and improve recovery.
When stress is high and cortisol is up, we’re in a sympathetic nervous system “mode”. This is our fight or flight response, which means GO – RUN – LIFT. But it doesn’t mean, REST – RECOVERY – REPLENISH – DIGEST. This becomes an issue because if we do not know how to properly shift out of sympathetic and into parasympathetic, which is the rest and recovery side of our nervous system, we end up in a vicious cycle of stress overload.
Recovery is key, our nervous systems basically control the ability to facilitate our recovery. Carbs play a HUGE role in shifting into that recovery mode….
During that process, our body begins to breakdown in multiple areas because it just simply cannot recover. It needs the ability to shift into a parasympathetic nervous system mode in order to fully recover. AND it needs to fully recover in order to fully adapt (the process of literally creating the changes we want to see).
How do we use this knowledge to our benefit? Time carbs according to when we need recovery most.
→ Post workout carbohydrates are massively important in blunting the cortisol response training gives us and allowing our body to tap into parasympathetic mode.
→ Evening carbohydrates can be critical in allowing our body to unwind and get a restful night’s sleep.
→ Pre workout carbs can be key for those who are already cortisol dominant and who live in a higher state of stress, because it balances the cortisol level prior to training.
→ Intra-workout carbs can play a role in controlling the cortisol, allowing better muscle repair and growth – also leading to better stress levels post training.
→ Frequent carb feedings (evenly distributed throughout daily meals) can be an intelligent way to help high stress/anxiety individuals keep cortisol levels lower throughout the day, controlling that stress and anxiety they face.
→ Carbohydrates in general can help trigger tryptophan, which converts into serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter in us that helps positively boost our mood and increases sleep quality.
So if you want to help your body recover properly, make sure you are getting the right amount of complex carbs.
Don’t overthink carbs! Keep it simple!
*Don’t overly restrict; don’t over-think it; don’t waste time with “carb math”.
*Enjoy a wide variety of minimally processed, whole and fresh foods.
*Observe how you look, feel, and perform.
*Decide what to do based on the data you collect about yourself, not on what you think you “should” do.
*The only “rules” come from your body and your experience. Don’t follow a dietary prescription for anyone else’s body.
Remember – for most active people, carbs are your friend!
YOU are unique. Your body is unique.
Your individual carb requirements depend on your:
*goals (fat loss, muscle gain, maintenance)
*genetics (different body types, medical conditions)
*carb source (refined versus minimally processed)
*activity level (sedentary, weight-training, endurance athlete).