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Paleo 101: What’s the fuss about carbohydrates?

It seems that the words “low-carb” have become the new “low-fat.” These are the words to incorporate in your vocabulary, if you want to be trendy, cool and in in the fitness world. What really is the deal with carbs? Why some people carb-load, whereas others stay away from them? Are there good and bad carbs, just like there are good and bad fats? And what the hell are we supposed to get energy from, if not carbs?

First of all, what exactly are carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates are macro-nutrients that contain sugars. We distinguish between simple and complex carbs. Simple carbs are absorbed and digested faster than complex carbs. Sugar, candies, brownies presenting the bad boys, and fruits, vegetables and dairy among the good ones all belong in the group of simple carbs.

Do not get confused, there is of course a huge difference between a brownie and a broccoli not only in the amount of carbs it contains, but in the overall nutritional value. In dairy products, sugars are called lactose, and can cause bloating or even diarrhea to many of us, who can’t digest lactose and may not even be aware of it.

Complex carbs include starches and fibers and are found in potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, squashes, green peas (so called starchy vegetables), legumes and white rice and white bread. Fibers are the parts of plants that are not digested by our bodies at all. They just go through the system and… well, fill the bowl. Fruits and vegetables contain fibers in varying ratios. Fibers are predominantly found in whole grain cereals, whole wheat bread and brown rice.

We often think that we need to eat lots of fiber to ensure regular bowel movement and good digestion, so we stuff ourselves with whole grain products and add psyllium and other fibrous supplements to our diet. Read the above line on fiber again – it is the part of plant that isn’t digested at all. It doesn’t help you with better bowel movement. It only helps you… to go more often, because there is more to dump in your body. So yes, you can live without whole grain products very easily, when you follow the caveman diet. You still get lots of fibers through veggies and fruits.

Do we need carbs to function?

Do you believe that you HAVE to have your dose of carbs every day? Something sweet to get over the afternoon slump? Oatmeal with banana and chocolate chips in the AM to boost your energy (and feel hungry just two hours later)? You don’t. If you’ve read my posts on fats carefully, you already know that our bodies derive what I call “high-quality energy” very easily from healthy fats.

High-quality energy means long lasting stable level of energy as opposed to short sudden energy spikes introduced by cheesecake sugar rush, and are followed by a nasty energy drop and an urge to refill more sugar (here comes the afternoon slump). Which type of energy would you rather go for? If long-lasting stable levels of energy are what you aim at, sub your bad carbs for healthy fats, eat good carbs in form of fruits and vegetables, and you will uncover a whole new world, where sun is shining, birds singing and you feel on top of the world!

The amount of carbs included in today’s regular diet is 1,5 to 2x higher than necessary. That’s why people slowly get fatter and fatter, despite believing they live healthy according to the conventional wisdom. All the carbohydrates an average person needs can be derived from portion of colorful veggies with every meal, piece of fruit here and there and starchy high-carb vegetables to support more active or physically exhausting days. Everything above that (pasta, pizza, bread, muffins, candy bars) is slowly but steadily transformed into first cute and later monstrous muffin tops, love handles, double chins… you name it. Choose your sources of carbs wisely, avoid empty calories that will spike your insulin levels and fail to deliver other nutrients but sugars, and improve your energy and overall well-being.

If you wish to learn more about carbs, come back to Alouded for more information. You’ll learn to distinguish between the good and the bad carbs, and how to use them smartly to support your training, fat-loss and everyday activities.

Thanks for reading, guys. Now it’s time to get out and live loud!

Yours,

Petra

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