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12 Days of Fitness 2011 – Day 10: Not All Carbs Are Created Equal

December 21, 2011 0 Comments

carbs(This is Part 10 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful fitness tips over the holiday season)

In the 80s the word “fat” scared people right away from their French fries.  In the 90s, the mere mention of a “carb” scared them, well, right away from their French fries again. Apparently, those who didn’t get the memo back in the eighties about fat got the message a decade later with a new name. Now if that all sounds ridiculous – it is! But nothing is more comical to me than listening to someone who has no sound knowledge of nutrition (except for what they learned on Oprah or from the latest diet book) and hear them tell others all they know about carbs and how bad they are. Yet when asked what they eat, there’s a carb at nearly every meal. Why is this so? Because popular knowledge and scientific knowledge are usually worlds apart.

Know The Difference

First, you have to understand that despite what you may have heard or thought, carbohydrates are good for you.  Most of them anyway. Like fats, it is unfair to categorize ALL carbohydrates as bad.  At a basic level, carbs can be broken into two primary categories: refined and whole, or natural.  Whole carbohydrates are those that are eaten close to how they grow in nature: fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, etc. Refined carbs are food items where everything in the food is taken away: the vitamins, minerals, and most importantly the fiber, leaving behind only the starch and sugar. With refined carbohydrates, all that was once good about the carb is now gone. Doesn’t sound good, does it?  It’s not.

A Bad Neighborhood

When eaten, refined carbohydrates give your body a quick boost in glucose (a.k.a. sugar), which can be helpful right before you get started in some sort of athletic endeavor, such as a sprint or a soccer game. However, eating refined carbohydrates on a regular basis, regardless of what you’re doing afterward, can leave you with a rather useless store of carbs. It’s like dumping sugar right into your blood stream and no one is recommending that as a good idea. All you need to know is how to identify refined carbs. Most often, refined carbs are white on their own, but they can hide inside various foods without being recognized. A few common foods that are labeled refined carbohydrates: white bread, white rice, foods ending with the word “starch”, foods that use puffy or shredded grains, etc.

A Better Choice

Since refined carbohydrates aren’t doing your body much good, you ought to do your best to go for whole, natural carbs. Whether you call them good carbs or all-natural carbs doesn’t matter.  What matters is that the “good” carbs have not been stripped of their fiber. Fiber is helpful for good bowel health; avoiding diseases such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and kidney stones; and obtaining and maintaining a healthy weight. So when referring to eating carbs focus on foods that contain fiber-rich carbs, such as fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains. Bottom line is, you need carbs, just more of the good and less of the bad. So then the next question is usually, “How do explain weight loss following a low carb diet?”

Why No-Carb Diets Work

If you’ve ever gotten into a diet that cuts you off from all carbohydrates, you probably lost some weight. If you’re supposed to need carbs, why did you have such great weight loss success when you cut them from your diet? There are three reasons.

  1. Cutting carbohydrates from your diet often results in a loss of water weight, as not eating carbs may cause you to urinate more frequently and with greater volume.
  2. Any diet that forces you to avoid one sort of food altogether will result in eating fewer calories. While this is a good thing at first, it’s healthier to trim calories from all the food groups instead of picking on carbohydrates only.
  3. Diets that trim carbohydrates do not trim protein or fat, which both cause you to feel full faster and longer, reducing your desire to eat.

Don’t pass on the holiday cookie; just fill up at the veggie tray first.

See you tomorrow for Day 11 of the 12 Days of Fitness

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

 

About the Author:

Jeff Harrison is a fitness coach based in Pottstown, PA. He received a BS in Exercise and Sport Science from Penn State University and is an NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), NSCA Certified Personal Trainer (NSCA-CPT) and ACE Advanced Health and Fitness Specialist (ACE-AHFS). Jeff's articles have been published in peer-reviewed journals as well as consumer oriented websites and magazines.

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