Is Butter a Carb? A blog about why Carbs are Crucial
I don't give a damn bout their bad Reputation (Joan Jett Voice)
The other day I was discussing the importance of meal planning and the benefits of a healthy, wholesome diet with one of my clients. Before we were even one sentence in to our conversation, she quickly responded, “I need to focus on protein right?! No carbs! No more Carbs, and then I’ll start seeing the results I want?” Our conversation got much more in depth from there (trust me, I can nerd out about nutrition talk for hours) but, I initiated my rebuttal by beginning to tell her how our bodies need many nutrients for survival. Protein being ONE, but NOT THE ONLY nutrient necessary to reach your health goals. I receive questions and comments similar to her statement on a daily basis, which has led to me realize that this misconception is extremely common, especially among women! So, I’d like to take a quick second to remind everyone that carbohydrates are actually our MAIN source of energy fuel! In this blog I will be discussing why I believe that Carbs are Crucial.
Science! (Bill Nye Voice)
When we consume carbohydrates, they are broken down into glucose. Glucose is the simplest and most easily utilized form of carbohydrates. Glucose enters into our bloodstream through the intestines where it is then utilized by our phosphagen system to create energy. The glucose which isn’t used for energy immediately, is stored in our liver and muscles as glycogen. When we don’t have any readily available glucose in our system, our bodies will quickly pull our recently stored glycogen from our muscles/liver and convert it into glucose which we can then use for energy. This is the reason why in many cases when we don’t eat before a workout, we feel extremely exhausted. Because we have no readily available glucose due to not recently eating, and as a result we will completely diminish our glycogen stores by the end of the workout.
Let’s talk real life
Now that we know a little bit about our carb breakdown lets set up a scenario!:
The scenario will take place in the evening. You havent had a chance to exercise yet, and you just ate a huge meal comprised of bread, pasta, and all the other carbs in the world! So, basically, your body just got hit with tons of carbs! Your energy levels begin to rise as the carbohydrates are broken down and a huge amount of glucose is suddenly admitted into your blood stream. However, you ate so many carbs that you just can’t possibly use all of them immediately. Therefore, your body begins to store this excess glucose in the form of glycogen. However, your liver can only store about 100g of glucose in the form of glycogen. So next, your muscles try to help out, but they can only store about 500g of glycogen if they were fully depleted which of course they aren’t, since you haven’t exercised today and you've already eaten multiple other meals throughout the span of the day. So, what happens with this whole heap of extra carbohydrates (glucose) after your storage capacity is reached? With nowhere to go they are stored as…..dun dun dun…Fat!
How do I make sure I don’t go carboverboard?
Most easily put, think about the times you need energy most? Hmm, I need energy the second I wake up in the morning, I need energy before I workout, and I need energy when I’m hitting that mid day wall. Are these all good times to eat some carbs? YES! Which is why ideally you’ll want to eat the majority of carbs earlier in the day (as well as part of your pre-workout meal).
On the contrary, do we need energy when our day is winding down and we’re going to go to sleep soon? I’d say not nearly as much, which is why your last meal of the day should ideally be a low carb meal. When we eat a lot of carbs closer to the end of the day, they are not all able to be utilized by our energy system since the days winding down, and instead they tend to sit in our stomachs unused so their extra sugars (aka glucose) turns into stored fat as well.
Not all Carbs are Created Equal
Essentially you can eat any carbs and still be fit and healthy, IF AND ONLY IF these carbs allow you to remain within your macros AND if your body is able to use all of said carb for energy.
There are two basic classes of carbs; Complex Carbs, and Simple Carbs.
Complex carbs are whole carbs such as brown rice, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and whole wheat/grain options like whole wheat pasta, bread, or cereals. Complex carbs are broken down slowly by your body which is much more beneficial to the average person. They will help to keep you more full longer. They will also be digested more slowly, giving the consumer more sustained energy over time. Slower digestion also means they won’t hit your bloodstream so quickly so hopefully can be utilized for immediate energy as time prolongs and your glycogen stores begin to drop. They are also generally higher in fiber which is the key to a healthy digestive system and will help aid in satiety.
Simple carbs are those like white bread, pasta, cake, cookies, etc. These are broken down at a much faster rate, so if they are not used for energy just as quickly, there is a much greater chance they will turn to stored fat. However, if these foods were already factored into your macros, you would know how much of them you could use fully and in that case you could eat them without gaining weight, since you wouldn’t go over our daily allowance. Simple carbs can also be utilized in people trying to put on mass, and in people who are eating extremely frequently because they don’t want to be overly filled by slow digesting carbs still by the time their next meal comes around.
I'm on an all CarbDiet
In most cases (most, not all), especially in the cases of most women, we are eating WAY less carbs (and calories in general) than would be ideal for us. Which results in holding fat since your body constantly thinks it's in survival mode. In actuality, we tend to eat simple carbs that are high in sugar, and high in fat, which is what has led so many people to believe that carbs are cause of weight gain. Would I advise you to go on an all carb diet like our girl Regina? No. But, do I believe that carbs are a major source of energy and huge part of a healthy rounded diet, ESPECIALLY in the cases of those trying to build muscle? You bet your carb loaded Biscuit.