How many times have you heard the advice, “just cut some carbs!” And I bet the response in your head has been, “over my dead body.” Of course though, many of us have tried eliminating carbohydrates and possibly restricting them all together. Please bear in mind that this issue is completely complex and would take a novel to explain in it’s entirety. I have no expertise in nutrition, just my own research and experience. I just wanted to share a personal post explaining some of the dangers of “carb cutting” and why your love for carbs is definitely valid.
Combined with a High-Protein Diet
Most times when trying to get “lean” people are bombarded with suggestions of carb-cutting. So, you’ve replaced your pasta obsession with chicken and broccoli…what’s usually ignored in the “low-carb diet” is the fact that essentially, it is a “high-protein diet.” Typically, a bagel is replaced with some scrambled eggs for breakfast. A protein bar now occupies the depths of your purse rather than a granola bar. So what does this mean? It means that the “diet mentality” of restricting carbs should be seen as simply adding more protein to your daily diet! Protein allows for our muscles to repair and build, also keeping us feeling full for longer periods of time. Great! So why do we need carbs at all? Well, if you want to push though the workout that’s going to deliver some delicious muscles, you’ll need a source of energy…which brings us to my next point…
First Source of Energy
Usually we wake up in the middle of the night craving pizza. There’s a reason a plate of fries is calling your name rather than a piece of salmon after a stressful day. Your body literally craves carbs as a a way to signify that it needs energy right away. In order to extract energy, our body first goes for the carby foods we have digested. Although there are many various pre-workout options (some that do not have any carbs at all) I’ll just discuss the effects of carbohydrates on your workout. The thing is you dont want to power your workout with a box of doughnuts, these simple sugars (and processed ingrediants) spike your blood sugar and then lead to a crash. Rely on complex carbs (brown rice, whole grain toast and oatmeal) so you can dominate your workout.
And it’s unavoidable: what about fasted cardio? So why not reduce carbs and burn more fat? You can research yourself about the huge debates, theres many different opinions. As for me, I believe that without adequate carbs, I am not able to exercise to my full potential. Maybe my body is burning more fat if I run before breakfast, but my brain? My brain is screaming for help because I’m hungry, cranky and tired! And if I feel terrible, I’m going to gorge on junky, fatty foods later. Now I’m not saying eggs before a run will sabotage your workout, but if I want to have an intense leg day, I’d prefer a bowl of oatmeal beforehand. There’s also a lot of studies showing how our bodies may turn to burning muscles (oh no!) instead of fat when engaging in fasted cardio. And besides, when you start becoming neurotic about calories or percentages of fat vs. carbs being burned, it’ll drive you insane. We need fat.
All The Good Stuff
So aside from the energy you gain from carbs, what about some other benefits? Fiber! This is essential for a healthy body, and another reason why you should more often than not choose whole grain products over simple carbohydrates. It helps with digestion and also makes your stomach feel fuller. And obviously, your bowel movements will be happier! This was one of the biggest issues I had when I reduced my carbohydrate intake around lunch time. (Don’t worry, breakfast and dinner were not affected). When I reintroduced some whole grain sandwiches into my lunch I felt a lot better…in the washroom.
Carbs make us happy! Of course potato chips, fluffy cheese bread and sugary cupcakes make us feel like dancing, but a simple English muffin with peanut butter actually improves our mood. Carbs actually promote the production of serotonin which chemically makes your brain feel better! This chemical, combined with melatonin in carbs can also help you fall asleep easier. Also, studies have shown that versus a low-carb diet, people who ate higher carbs were able to retain information easier; it helps with your memory.
So just as a little disclaimer, I’m not recommending any particular diet. Eating should not be a restrictive meal plan. I just try to choose complex carbohydrates more often, and keep my protein levels high. I just wanted to shed some light on the fact that if you want some pasta, hell, even some cheesy garlic bread, eat that damn stuff (and don’t feel guilty for leaving the greek yogurt in the fridge).