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Should I be afraid of carbs?

Should I be afraid of carbs?

By Aubrey Babcock | In Nutrition Tips | on April 25, 2018

Should I be afraid of carbs?

Carbs. For so many of us, they have a really bad rap, don’t they? What have carbs ever really done to us, except give us energy? There’s “good carbs,” “bad carbs,” – high carb – low carb – no carb – Atkins – Keto – is your head spinning yet?

First thing’s first – carbohydrates are a normal part of a diet. Carbohydrates are essential for brain function as well as physical performance [because carbs = energy], so eliminating them won’t necessarily give you an advantage. The key here is to learn the difference between types of carbohydrates, and choose accordingly.

Let’s answer some common questions.

  1. What is a carbohydrate?

To put in layman’s terms, carbs are a macronutrient [as are proteins and fats] that can be broken down to release energy in the body. In fact, they provide the source of energy most often used for exercise – and – for every one gram of carbohydrate, we are provided with four calories of energy.  

  1. What types of carbs are there?

Answered simply, 2. There are simple carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates. The difference between them is their chemical structure and how quickly they are absorbed and digested.

Carbohydrates consist of sugar [simple], starches and fiber [complex] found in fruits, grains, vegetables and milk products.

  • Simple Carbs: are digested and absorbed more quickly and contain one or two sugars [aka quick energy source = spikes in blood sugar levels]
    • Monosaccharides = one sugar: fructose [from fruits] and galactose [from milk products]
    • Disaccharides = two sugars: sucrose [table sugar], lactose [dairy], maltose [beer, veggies]
      • Examples: sugar
    • Complex Carbs: Polysaccharides = three or more sugars, take longer to digest and absorb and are starchier in nature
      • Examples: beans, lentils, peanuts, potatoes, corn, parsnips, whole-grain bread/cereals
  1. What’s the difference between good and bad carbs?

First, let’s address the labeling; rather than moralizing a specific food using terms such as ‘good’ and ‘’bad’ how about we call them ‘smart carbs’ and ‘not as smart carbs.’ Just like all foods, carbohydrates fall on a spectrum. On one end of the spectrum are your healthy choices, and the opposing end are your not as healthy choices – and in between are all of the other foods.

The carbs on your smart end are going to be your whole [most natural form], unprocessed foods.


  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Starchy Vegetables: sweet potatoes, plantains, parsnips, green peas
  • Legumes: peas, lentils, chickpeas, beans, soybeans, peanuts, green bean, alfalfa
  • Whole Grains: oats, quinoa, rice

On the ‘not as smart’ end of the spectrum are your refined sugars, highly processed foods – these typically come pre-packaged.

Examples: table sugar, white bread, sugary drinks, baked goods, candy, pastries, chocolate bars, etc.

Somewhere in between all of those foods, are hundreds of other foods that you see every day. Your goal is not to only eat from the smart end, and restrict from the other end, but to make conscious choices about which ones you are going to eat. Your only goal is to eat slightly better than before – not pull a complete 180 [we’re trying to establish healthy eating for a lifetime, not just because bathing suit season is around the corner].

  1. But won’t cutting carbs will make me lose weight faster?

Yes, it’s true if you cut out carbs, you will drop weight, but only temporarily. That’s because the lost weight lost water weight. For every gram of carbohydrate consumed, your body requires 3-4 grams of water to process and store it. That means you are holding extra water [aka water weight] on a regular basis, so if you decide to cut some carbs out the amount of water you will retain will decrease, showing a lesser number on the scale. Similarly, days after a heavy carb day you may notice you’re bloated and that is reflected on the scale.

  1. What if I just go gluten free, instead?

Huge public service announcement: just because something is labeled gluten free, does not necessarily make it a ‘smart choice.’ For a product to be gluten free, it must be free of the proteins found in wheat, rye, triticale, oats and barley.

Gluten free is not synonymous with “healthy.” It may be a healthier/smarter choice for individuals who suffer from Celiac disease or a gluten intolerance, but if you see a packaged food item [hello – red flag = packaged] that is claiming to be gluten-free, take a peek at the other ingredients. Gluten free crackers, pretzels, cookies, brownies, cereal, pasta – whatever – are still made with other not so smart ingredients [i.e. added sugar and other hard to pronounce ingredients] that have been processed to replicate it’s glutinous counterpart.

People who have symptoms of gluten intolerance may find they feel better physically and mentally by eliminating gluten from their diet by replacing their current carbohydrate choices with ones from the “smart carb” list.

Here’s a brief recap:

  • Carbohydrates are not “bad” for you – they fall on a spectrum of ‘these make me feel great’ to ‘these make me feel less great’ and whichever you choose is just that, a choice
  • Some carbohydrates keep you fuller and feeling better, others give you some quick energy and can make you feel crappy afterwards
  • Eliminating carbs does not equal fast, permanent weight loss
  • Gluten free does not mean carb free

For those of you who may still be puzzled by this carbohydrate discussion, send an email over to nutrition@customkinetics.com.

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