In the same way that fat was condemned in the 80’s (along with low waist shorts and natural makeup) it is fair to say that carbohydrates are now being held responsible for our growing waistline.
Now, there is some truth to this. We live in a world where enormous quantities of refined carbohydrates can be bought cheaply and easily. And we can’t deny that carbs are sumptuous – particularly when they have been aerated, plumped up with lush thickeners or entombed in chocolate.
It is easy to see how they can be over eaten. Give me a packet of Tim Tams and I can show you that they are not never-ending.
Currently, carbs are being blamed for a host of weight related issues – sugar is now the cause of obesity and carbohydrates of all shapes and sizes ‘cause massive insulin spikes’ which ‘makes you fat’.
It is true; the overproduction of insulin (in obese people particularly) causes your blood glucose levels to crash, stimulating hunger. Thus, people with insulin resistance who are eating refined carbohydrates (without the fibre, fat and protein present in a well-rounded meal) will eat more.
However this doesn’t make carbs fattening.
It is actually quite simple. Carbs, particularly overly processed ones are just so easy to eat. We have become reliant on them as a cheap source of fuel. People have to eat something, and our need for ease means that carbohydrates have become the dominant norm as our fuel.
On the flip side, I see so many girls going super-duper low carb (eschewing broccoli) in their efforts to drop the last few.
But, going low carb also isn’t going to help you. You do the need them. It just depends how active you are as to how many. Generally the level of activity in your day should dictate what type of carbs you choose to eat.
So what carbs and when?
1. Whole unprocessed carbohydrate sources are your priority, such as fresh fruit and veggies. This focus is nutrient dense and not calorie dense.
2. Quality grains, such as rice, quinoa, buckwheat (or whatever tickles your fancy) or bread without preservatives and additives are a secondary source and need to be consumed sensibly. When you are not physically active you haven’t done enough to justify more carbohydrates on top of whole food. Emphasis here is that they are not fattening! They are just unnecessary if you have sat at your computer all day.
3. Desserts, chocolate, lollies and added sugars: should be eaten sparingly in the week. I don’t care how raw/vegan/organic the source. The reality is, it is still an additional something that isn’t necessary in vast amounts daily.
And from a health and weight loss perspective how many carbs should I have?
I like this little rule from Men’s Health weight loss adviser Alan Aragon.
Multiply your target body weight by 1 if you have a desk job, work out in a gym several times a week for an hour or less, and your main goal is fat loss. Multiply by 2 if you’re a recreational athlete who trains for more than an hour a day. And multiply by 3 if you’re a competitive athlete who trains multiple hours a day, or if you’re a guy with a Mini Cooper body and a Corvette metabolism who is struggling to gain weight.
The number you end up with indicates how many grams of carbs you should eat every day.
What do you think? Have you had success on low carb diets? Find you get too light-headed without dense carbs? (usually indicates you have great insulin levels) I would love to hear your thoughts.