There is a fad that has been going around for a while now about cutting carbs. It all started way back when the Atkins Diet became the go-to diet but I think some people have got the wrong end of the stick.
Carbs are our main source of energy and if you follow a healthy, active lifestyle, you need them. You simply cannot sustain a decent exercise regime if you are cutting carbs completely. Now there are good carbs (low in the glycemic index) and bad carbs (high in the glycemic index). Good carbs release energy slowly and bad carbs release energy quickly. If you eat high glycemic index carbs, you will have spikes in blood sugar levels that will lead to a sugar crash (feeling tired and possibly shaky). However, if you eat carbs lower on the glycemic index you will have a more steady sustained energy level. Also, if you eat a lot of sugars and do not burn off those calories… you guessed it, your body will store them as fat.
The main thing to think with carbs is ‘moderation‘. If you eat significantly more calories than your metabolic rate, you will put weight on. If you eat slightly less calories than your metabolic rate, you will lose weight. If you eat the same amount of calories as your metabolic rate, you will maintain weight.
I had it myself a few months ago. Back in April I had a routine health check and they took my body fat percentage. As a fitness fanatic, I was displeased with a slightly high body fat percentage (still well within my range). So, me being me, I took action. After a few slight tweaks to my diet, I lost 2% body fat gradually over two months and I have sat at my new level, quite content. As you will notice I didn’t do anything ridiculous so I didn’t lose an unhealthy amount too quickly as that can be bad for you. All I did was cut sugars and reduce (not completely exclude) my carbohydrate intake on non-training days. On training days, I don’t cut carbs at all. In fact, if my carbs are low on training days, I find I’m breathless quicker, weaker and often feel sick during my training session. Oh, and don’t forget the headaches.
So, this is the message that works for me: EVERYTHING IN MODERATION.
Lower glycemic index carbohydrates:
- Whole grain breads
- Whole grain cereals
- Oatmeal, oat bran, muesli
- Sweet potato
- Most fruits
- Non-starchy vegetables
Higher glycemic index carbohydrates:
- White bread
- Sugary cereals
- Short-grain white rice
- Sugary cakes
- Basically food with a high sugar content (look at the carbohydrates of which sugars section of the nutritional information).