Carbs and No-Carb Diets, Good or Bad?

carbs-good-or-bad

Women are scrutinised daily for everything we do. How we walk, talk, dress, what we eat and what we look like. This has ultimately created a world where some of us are scared to make our next move. (For any of those ladies who have the confidence to do what and how they please, I salute you)

‘Should you really be eating that bread/cheese/jacket potato/entire cheesecake’ – yes we’ve all done it and no, it’s not abnormal to see a cake in Tesco and want to engorge the entire thing. I hope. ‘That’ll go straight to your hips/bum/thighs/stomach *insert various other body part*’

Comments similar to these and things such as no or low-carb diets have given carbohydrates as a whole a bad name. These no-carb diets are something I will come on to in a minute, but first let’s look at carbohydrates in a little more detail.
There are different types of carbohydrates and they’re found in almost everything.

Simple carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates:

Simple carbs or ‘sugar’
Are easier to break down, hence the name. They are made of a chain of one or two sugar blocks and as such, can be digested much quicker and easier. The building blocks can either be glucose, fructose or galactose. Examples of foods high in simple carbs are jellies, jams, candies, fruits and sweeteners (table sugar, syrup and honey)

Complex carbs, also known as ‘starch or fibre’
Are more difficult to break down. They are a similar structure to simple carbs, made up of the same blocks, but the chains are longer (three or more blocks) meaning they are harder to break down and take longer to do so. Examples of foods high in complex carbs are pasta, rice, beans, whole grains, bread and vegetables.

Any sugars that our body doesn’t need just yet are stored by the liver and muscles, ultimately as body fat.

I know, I can hear you. So what? What difference does this make? Which of them is better for me? I make it sound as though you should head straight for the simple carbs and avoid those nasty complicated carbs to avoid more dreaded body fat. Well, our body needs carbohydrates to perform basic bodily functions. Plus, if you’re exercising regularly carbs are essential to ensure you have the energy to complete each and every workout to your full potential. Our red blood cells need glucose as a source of fuel – that’s the only source they have. Without enough carbs to break down into glucose and to survive on, our bodies will start to break down all of the hard earned protein from the muscles you sweat hours working for.

So sticking to simple carbs and avoiding complex carbs isn’t necessarily the answer. The simple carbs are easy to digest and therefore raise the blood sugar level much more quickly. This can lead to a spike in your blood sugar level, and what goes up must come down.

I believe everything should be done in moderation. I find the best way to ensure my entake of carbs – the right carbs – is correct is to count macros.

No/Low-carb diets and my experience

No/Low-carb diets are what they say on the tin. You avoid starchy or sugary foods with the aim of increasing your fat intake. There are studies that show these diets work, and for a period of time I believe they do. However, cutting anything from your diet can be a difficult task, especially if you have as much of a sweet tooth as I do!

The danger of cutting something out of your diet is that often it can be just a diet, rather than a lifestyle change. So eventually you will be craving those carbs and go back to eating them again. Thus undoing any weight loss you may have achieved so far.

The no/low-carb diets are something I personally disagree with. I’ve tried it, and it isn’t fun. You’re very limited on what you can eat and as a result I ended up caving in very early. I like to treat myself to the odd biscuit (or packet if it’s custard creams!) every now and again. But with the no-carb diet, when I did treat myself my body reacted in a horrible way. I had severe stomach cramps because my body wasn’t used to digesting the more complex carbs. It also made me very hungry very frequently. Don’t get me wrong, there aren’t many times of the day that I’m not thinking about food, but cutting out carbs altogether made me feel as though I was actually starving at points. I was also experiencing low blood sugar levels which made me shake, I often had headaches and I’d feel nauseous most of the time.

I set my own macros to work out how many carbs I should intake daily, based on my fitness goals, age, weight etc. And I stick to it. I’ve found that I’m losing more weight eating the right amount of carbs, than I was at the end of a no-carb diet due to random bouts of binging. I don’t eliminate anything from my diet; I believe everything should be done in moderation.

I’m afraid I can’t tell you how many carbs you should have in your diet because we are all wonderfully individual and everyone’s needs are different. It will depend on your fitness goal – whether you want to lose weight, maintain but tone the muscle you have or gain weight for more muscle as well as a number of other factors.
I’d recommending visiting my post on macro diets here for more information on counting your macro’s.

So don’t rush to put down those carbs, eat them in moderation and enjoy them!

Happy eating wonderful people.

A.x

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