Updated: Feb 5
“You are what you eat, so don’t be fast, cheap, easy or fake.”... Anonymous
What are carbs ?
Carbs (carbohydrates) are the least understood macronutrient. Macronutrients are large groups of nutrients, fuel or energy that consist of carbohydrates, fat and protein.
Too often when someone is asking about eating healthier they end up answering themselves with, “I should just eat less carbs right?”. As any good personal trainer or nutrition specialist would do, I flip out and say, “Why would you ever do that ? Why would you eat less fruits and vegetables ? That makes no sense at all !”. After all, that’s what makes up the majority of the carb family, FRUITS & VEGETABLES!
Carbs are our primary source of energy.
Carbohydrates are what our bodies use for energy first when it is time to rise and shine. The process of ingesting carbs goes like this. Our taste buds go first. The sweetness signals the brain, it says, “Hey, we’ve got some energy coming in quickly and it’s coming in fast.” Then our bodies process the energy to fuel our activity. There are carbs that signal slower speeds like kale and those that come in like formula one race cars like strawberries. A good gage is the sweetness, the sweeter the carb, the quicker that energy is coming to energize you. Carbs like white rice and quinoa are other examples of carbs coming in at a slower pace, they are also longer lasting. Think of carbs with no sweetness as a “Sunday drive in the country”. Think of sweet carbs as a “Formula One Car” delivery of energy. You can get energy for your brain and body quickly from a sweet fruit like an apple or better yet a date.
An apple you say ? That means you must get a “Light Speed” delivery from a donut right ? It’s super sweet! Wrong. That is what makes fake carbs loaded with refined sugar so dangerous. The taste buds still go first, they still send the signal, your body prepares for the burst of energy it has always dreamed of and then nothing. So what happens then ? We crave another donut, another and another and get no energy to use for our day in return. On top of that we don’t get full, so we can eat as many as we want. Refined carbs are a trick and they end up stored in your body as treats you can’t eat.
Try something for me. Better yet don’t, just trust me. If we were to challenge ourselves to eating 6 donuts we would succeed and get zero energy for it. In fact we would feel drained afterwards. If you were to try and eat 3 apples, you would fail miserably. You may get through one and half. Apples are loaded with natural sugar and tons of fiber. They are perfect for quick energy and leave your stomach satisfied. The best part is, when you get the the sugar signal, natural sugar this time, the cycle is completed successfully. We are given the energy necessary to burn and the fiber needed to process that energy.
What about pasta and potatoes ?
Those are carbs right ? How do we feel about those ? Great question and like most things when it comes to your health it depends. Sweet potatoes are some of the best carbs you can eat and white potatoes are okay by me as well. Both to be eaten on occasion. Pasta made from grains is great to eat as an energy source just as long as you don’t over do it. Pasta can be a source of fiber as well, just as long as the pasta is made from whole grains. Steer clear of pastas made with anything other than flour, water, salt and eggs. There are also many gluten free pasta options. Made from corn, rice, quinoa, spinach, you name it and they’ve got it. Mixed with a protein like fish and now we are really taking our pasta to a healthy place.
Pasta is a meal that will stay with you a long while and supply you with consistent energy as your body burns through it. A slow delivery long lasting carb. Great the night before a long run or day filled with activity. Potatoes behave the exact same way. Eat them both in moderation and reap the benefits.
Do I like donuts ? Of course. Rarely do I eat them. Do I Ike pasta ? Yes. Do I eat it. Yes, on occasion. Sometimes gluten free, other times as a whole grain and even fake pasta sometimes. That usually happens at social events when and where I don’t want to be rude. That goes for other snacks as well. Treats loaded with refined sugar are a rarity if you are concerned with your health. Stay away from them if you can and don’t beat yourself up if you slip. Nobody is perfect and consistency is the key.
The key point is knowing you are misbehaving, and only enjoying those fake carbs for their immediate taste and sensation, nothing more. They only taste delicious. After that they do nothing for us. We call that conscious eating. Whether what we put in our bodies is good or bad, knowing is half the battle. Eat natural carbs and stay away from the refined carbs as much as possible and all will be well.