When most people want to lose weight the first thing they do is avoid carbs like the plague. Popular diets like the Atkins diet promote the low-carb/no-carb approach, and cause the general public population to believe that carbs are evil. .
But are carbs really the enemy?
Why We Need Carbs
Carbs are an important macronutrient – meaning our bodies cannot live without them. They are our bodies’ number one source of energy. They provide fuel for almost every process in the body. Cutting out carbs for fat loss is counterintuitive – and will actually slow your metabolism in the long run. It is not sustainable either to live that way. Try going for one whole week without any sort of carbs. You’ll feel horrible, sluggish and depressed, and you will probably cave in by stuffing yourself with more in the end anyway.
We need carbs. The key is being wise about it.
How Much to Eat?
Everyone’s carb recommendations are different depending on age, gender, activity level, body type, and goals. For example, an endurance athlete will definitely need more carbs compared to a sedentary person. There is no one size fits all rule.
But for most regular people, approximately half of total calorie intake should come from carbs. If your total calorie intake is 1500, try to get 750 calories (187g)* from carb sources.
*1 g of carb = 4 calories
Choose Complex Carbs
There are two kinds of carbs – simple and complex. Simple carbs consist of refined grains and added sugar. Examples are white rice, white bread, donuts, pastries and sweets. These cause rapid fluctuations in blood sugar, as well as promote weight gain if eaten in large amounts. However, complex carbs such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables and beans are vital for good health. Examples are brown rice, wholemeal bread, oatmeal, whole-wheat pasta, green vegetables and sweet potatoes. They keep us full, curb cravings and provide a steady source of energy over a long period.
Try to get at least 80% of your carbs from complex sources.
You should have a balance of carbs, protein and fat in every meal. If you must have your bowl of white rice, make sure you have it with protein, fibre and good fat. This increases the overall glycemic load of your meal – slowing down digestion and preventing insulin spikes.
Carb rich meals should ideally be taken in the morning or post-workout. After a long night of sleeping, or after a workout session, your body’s energy stores are depleted. This is the ideal time to replenish your body with carb sources.
Remember, carbs are not the enemy. If you stick to minimally processed and complex carbs and take them at the right timing, your body will reward you with sustained energy and minimal cravings throughout the day.