Monday, February 1, 2016

Carbs 2

For the month of January, I dedicated several posts to nutrition.  This is part two in my series about carbs. In the first post, I talked about what carbohydrates are and why we need them.  In this post, we will look at:
WHY are carbohydrates such a struggle?  
What are good carbs? 
What's better? 
What's best when consumed sparingly?  

I will also share with you my story about what happened when I had too few carbs.

I asked Instagram what they think when they see or hear the word "carb" or "carbohydrate"...

Here's a little refresher from last week's post.  Carbohydrates are the sugars, starches and fibers found in food.  When you consume carbohydrates, your body converts them to glucose, which it uses for energy.  Your pancreas releases insulin to help absorb glucose and lower glucose levels.  You body uses insulin for other metabolic functions.

So, if we need carbohydrates to be healthy and for energy, why are the low carb diets so popular?  Why do we think carbs are bad?  Why do we crave them?
Carbohydrates are not bad.  They get a a bad rap because our diets are often full of simple carbs, including a lot of refined sugars.  Our bodies immediately convert these to glucose, which is converted to energy.  Too many simple carbs cause your body to release too much insulin, disrupt your blood sugar levels, cause weight gain, as well as a litany of other problems. It's not the carbs themselves. It's too many and too many of the wrong kind.

Let's talk about simple carbohydrates for a little bit.  Simple carbs are those types of food and beverages made of simple sugars (such as sucrose, fructose, and maltose), which your body digests quickly.  These types of foods include donuts, muffins, cake, ice cream, candy, soda, beer, and white breads.  My cousin Jamie calls them, "calorie bombs."  You eat them, they are tons of calories, and 1/2 hour or less after you eat them, you are hungry for more.  For me, eating this type of food early in the day makes me hungry all day long.  I can't seem to get enough, and it's sweet, sugary foods I crave most.  Thus the term, "Calorie Bomb."  When you are trying to lose weight, you want to avoid this kind of food as much as possible.  You don't want to eat calorie dense foods that will leave you hungry and craving more all day.  It's okay to have them once in a while, sparingly.  For example, if you have a party to attend on the weekend or you are itching for some Fig Newtons, just be sure to include them in your nutrition, whether you are tracking points or macros.  Be aware of how you respond to this kind of food.  Does it make you even hungrier after?  Can you stop with one serving?  Do you feel satisfied or wanting more?  Depending on how you respond, and at what time of day, makes a difference as to how often you want to "splurge" on that kind of treat. 
I don't know about you, but I LOVE carbs.  I struggle with the kind that aren't so good and I always want more.  I love waffles.  I would kill for a Belgian Waffle, smothered in butter and syrup.  But I know that kind of food is best left as a special treat...maybe breakfast out or a baby shower.
To be truthful, most carbohydrates are wonderfully delicious and nutritious!  The "best carbs" are what would be considered "complex carbohydrates," or anything high in fiber, such as most vegetables, legumes, oatmeal, and whole grains.  Complex carbs take longer to digest and do not tend to spike your blood sugar levels.  If you are tracking calories and macros, you want these kinds of foods to make up the majority of your carbohydrates.
Except for the turkey burger and cheese buried under those mushrooms, this plate is a carb feast.  Probably not what you would think of when you think, "carbs," but vegetables are carbohydrates!
Fruit is what I wold consider the "next best" carbs.  While fruits are considered simple carbs, due to the natural sugars they contain, they are full of vitamins and can often satisfy your need for something sweet.  I like to say, "berries are best" because they are plentiful in Vitamin C and rich in fiber.  If you are craving ice cream, try some low fat vanilla yogurt with some berries (fresh or frozen) or a frozen banana in the blender with 1/2 c. almond milk and 2 tbsp. chocolate syrup.  You'll be surprised at how well these kinds of substitutions satisfy you.  All fruit is good, but different fruits affect people in different ways.  So, listen to your body and see how you feel after you eat a banana versus how you feel after a cup of strawberries or a grapefruit.

Here's my story...

A 41 mile ride shouldn't have beat me down as much as it did.  I thought I was eating enough, but I was not.  Proper nutrition and plenty of carbs literally fueled my training.  I needed carbohydrates.
Last summer, when I really started riding my bike a lot, I experienced a nutritional crisis, which I wrote about it in Staying the Course.  While doing research for this blog entry, I realized that what happened to me was a direct result of not eating enough, and specifically, not having enough carbohydrates.  I had ALL of the side effects, specifically the "brain fog" and fatigue, that typically accompany a low-carb diet.  Your body converts carbohydrates to glucose, which it uses as energy. I was eating carbohydrates, even tried carb-cycling (increasing carbohydrates on riding days).  Furthermore, I was eating 500 more calories per day than I usually ate.  But it was not enough and physically I started to shut down.  I can clearly remember how I felt.  It was a valuable learning lesson for me.  I know now that during riding season, I have to eat a LOT more, and that it's okay.

I started eating a PB&J sandwich on white bread before a ride.  I learned that half a sandwich was best because I got stomach cramps with a whole one.  But it was the perfect combination of simple carbs my body needed to get me through a ride.
If you are trying to lose weight, don't skip the carbs.  Yes, make sure you are eating enough protein.  You need protein to build muscle.  Eating enough protein will help manage your appetite and keep your blood sugar levels in check.  But skipping carbohydrates or eating too few is not only unhealthy, but it is also a poor way to sustain your weight loss.  What will you do when you reach your "goal weight" and start eating spaghetti and potatoes?  Learning proper portions and looking at how to manage your macros are the best way to both lose the weight and keep it off.  This is a journey, not a sprint.  Be smart.  Cut out the sugary and fried foods, replace them with better options and make your new way of eating your lifestyle, not your diet.

Here are links to other posts where I discuss nutrition.  They are worth a second (or first) view if you are serious about flexible dieting as an option.

Carbs:  The first post about carbohydrates.  Make sure you read this!!!

Nutrition Hot Topic:  Is it bad?:  Thinking about food choices.  What's good?  What's not?

Fabulous Fiber:  A brief discussion about the benefits of a high fiber diet.

Successful Secrets:  Two simple strategies I practice every day which helped me to lose weight and to now keep it off.

Successful Secrets: Part Two:  How planning my week's meals helps me to stay on track.  Menu and recipe ideas.

Nutrition 101, I talk about meal prep and provided you with several recipes and meal suggestions to get you started.  Check it out!

Flexible Dieting Basics:  A basic explanation of flexible tracking calories and macronutrients has been the most successful way for me to lose weight and keep it off.

Tracking Calories with MFP:  Some features of MyFitnessPal (MFP) explained.  This post has some tricks of the trade.

Foods to Try:  These are foods I try to always keep on hand and a couple recipes too.

Cravings:  Some tips on how to stave off and handle cravings when they hit.  

Wonder Woman:  I explain how I got the nickname "Wonder Woman" by tracking all my calories and macronutrients.  I give a brief explanation of macros here.

A Calorie is Not a Calorie:  This post talks about the different effect foods have on you.

Questions for you: 
(Answer in the comment section below.)
What did you do this weekend?  What's your biggest food weakness?

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