Eating carbs is essential. The biggest thing I can stress to you is this: Carbs are the main source of energy for the body. Carbs are everywhere & your body needs carbs; but it is all about eating the right carbs at the right times. So how do you tell the good carbs from the bad carbs?
Two Types of Carbohydrates:
There are two types of carbohydrates: simple (bad) carbs and complex (good) carbs. The biggest differences between them are how quickly they are digested and absorbed & how much they spike blood sugar/insulin.
Simple Carbohydrates – “Bad” Carbs
Simple carbs are known as “bad” carbs. They are “bad” because they typically have a high glycemic (sugar) index, thus spiking your insulin.
These are a problem in America… We have access to all of these simple carbs everywhere: fast food, ice cream, processed carbs, etc… People eat so many carbs throughout their day- the wrong type of carbs and then their insulin spikes. Spiking insulin can be very beneficial post workout BUT simply put, when you are not being active and spike your insulin, it can result in your body storing the carbs as fat.
In addition to this, the body breaks down simple carbs quickly, thus making them not a good source of energy for your body.
Simple carbs are often either naturally high in sugars or are bad because of the way they are processed. A great example of this is cereal. When processing cereals, the ingredients being used could be healthy for you, but the more the food is processed (and cereal generally is highly processed), the higher the glycemic index becomes.
It is important to read the food labels when you are buying packaged foods. Try to avoid buying foods with corn syrup listed in the first three ingredients. Below is a list of many simple carbs to avoid:
Simple Carb Examples:
Complex Carbohydrates – “Good Carbs”
Complex carbs are the “good” carbs. Complex carbs have a low glycemic index, so your blood sugar & insulin aren’t spiked upon consumption of them. Also your body digests and absorbs them slower than simple carbs, making complex carbs a great long-term sustainable energy for your body.
The less processed a complex carb is, the better it is for you. This is why eating a boiled potato is a better option than eating a twice-baked potato – the cooking process makes it more of a simple carb.
Complex carbs are often rich in fiber, and they are commonly found in whole plant foods, making them high in vitamins and minerals also.
Complex Carb Examples:
Whole Wheat Bread
Whole Wheat Pasta
So, when should you eat carbohydrates?
The timing of when you eat carbs is just as important as the type of carbs you are eating. Since carbs are energy, they need to be burned to prevent them from easily turning to fat – if carbs go unburned, they are likely to turn to fat. The earlier you eat your carbs in the day, the better!
You HAVE to eat breakfast to kick start your metabolism for the day. Making sure that breakfast has a carb will ensure you are going to have enough energy throughout your morning & not feel lethargic.
But try avoiding foods like an Egg McMuffin, or biscuits and gravy – the processed white breads on these are simple carbs.
Start your day with a complex carb like oatmeal, or scrambled eggs on wheat toast. A balanced breakfast consists of a protein & a carb.
This is a good time to get your carbs in for the day also. Try to have a balanced meal with a complex carb, protein & veggie.
(Ex: Sweet potato, chicken, and vegetables)
Brown rice, whole wheat bread, and quinoa all also make for a great carb to have with lunch.
If you’re trying to shed fat, you will want to cut the carbs out of your diet in the evening. I often recommend a minimum of five hours before you go to bed – or sooner if possible, so cutting the carb out of your dinner is very helpful.
Remember, your body does not need a bunch of energy with the day winding down and rest coming soon, so the carbs will not get burned and as a result, be stored as fat. So for dinner, focus on having a meal with a protein and vegetable.
Nighttime carb consumption is a huge problem for people. Many people skip meals throughout the day (causing them to be catabolic) & then eat a carb heavy dinner or nighttime snack. This doesn’t allow adequate time for your body to burn the carbs which results in your body storing them as fat.
If you are hungry in the evening, eat a snack. Listen to your body; it is telling you it needs nutrients. I’m not a huge believer in this strict notion of, “Don’t eat anything at all past 6pm!”. A good snack to have in the later hours of the night would be cottage cheese, almonds, nuts, peanut butter & celery, or a protein shake.
Cottage cheese & a serving of peanut butter is the most ideal option for a nighttime snack. The cottage cheese is a slow digesting, casein protein that is low in carbs and the peanut butter is a healthy fat that will slow the digestion of protein even more. Now your body is anabolic all night! (Click here to learn what anabolic means)
REPLENISHING YOUR BODY AFTER A WORKOUT
The most beneficial time to eat carbs is after a workout. You will also like knowing that this is actually a great time to enjoy simple carbs (yes, the “bad” ones!). You have broken down your muscles with micro tears, and your body is craving nutrients. Simple carbs are ideal because your body will digest and absorb them very fast which will spike your insulin. Spiking your insulin at this time is very beneficial because your body will use the carbs very efficiently to repair & recover the muscle.
For a quick and even more beneficial route, try having your carbs in liquid form. This is helpful because your body does not have to use as much time and energy to break them down – the faster absorbed, the better.
I even used to have maple syrup after my workouts! So it is even a good time for that ice cream cone you are craving. You simply want to restore the glycogen you burned in the workout. The sooner and faster you are able to replenish, the better. A great supplement for this is 1st Phorm Ignition powder which can be thrown right into your protein shake & has a multivitamin mixed in also.
Just be sure you are getting fast digesting whey protein & a simple carb after every workout!
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask. For examples of what a good, balanced meal with carbs looks like, check out the Lean Kitchen menu.
Thank you for reading!
Please share this with anyone you think could benefit from knowing these things!
For a more in depth explanation of the hormone, insulin, I recommend this article: