Are carbohydrates a good thing or a bad thing? This is one of the most commonly speculated questions when it comes to nutrition. The answer to this question is simply both. Carbohydrates can be both a good thing, as well as a bad thing. Just like with any other aspect of nutrition, too many carbs can be a bad thing but too few can also be just as bad. In addition to that, the types of carbs we take in also play a role in this.
Carbohydrates provide the body with most of its energy. This is why carbohydrate numbers tend to be a big factor in how we feel. If our carb numbers are too low, this is when we tend to find ourselves feeling tired and sluggish. However, if our carb numbers are too high this can tend to leave us feeling bloated and unmotivated. This feeling comes from the fact that carbohydrates tend to make our body retain water, hence the word hydro in carbohydrate. This is why people tend to see a quick drop in weight when they begin to limit and watch their number of carbs they are consuming.
Determining the number of carbs that we need in our diet will vary on you as an individual. Several factors that play a role in determining just how much carbs you should consume in a day include things such as: how much lean mass or body fat you have, how active you are, how intense, long-lasting, and/or frequent that activity is, and how old you are. Some people prefer to have a larger number of carbs as part of their diet, and some people find that they prefer a smaller amount of carbs in their diet. On average, a person’s macros should consist of about 45-65% of what they consume in their diet. This will measure out to approximately 1 cupped hand portion of carbs at each meal for women, and 2 cupped hands portioned out for men at each meal.
When it comes to carbohydrates, they can be broken down into two forms. These are simple carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates. Simple carbs are those that we find in things such as table sugar and syrups, whereas complex carbs are those found in whole-food sources like vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains. Simple carbs are those that are composed of shorter chains of sugar molecules, which therefore allows them to be burned off faster. This means that these cause a spike in blood sugar, which in turn gives our body a short-lasting source of energy. These are the carbs that are best to consume 30 minutes before a workout to give us a natural form of energy. Complex carbs are made up of a longer chain of sugar molecules and are more ideal for providing the body with energy throughout the day. They do this by keeping our blood sugar and insulin levels stable by releasing their energy gradually.
Another form that you will find a carbohydrate as is fiber. This is a type of carbohydrate that is unable to be digested. These fibers are found in two forms: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber is found in food items such as oats, dried beans and peas, nuts, flax, chia, fruits, and vegetables. This type of fiber is water soluble and helps in the excretion of substances from the body. Insoluble fiber is found primarily in dark green leafy vegetables, celery, fruit and vegetable skins, seeds, and nuts. This type of fiber helps to ensure that we maintain regular bowel movements. Some additional benefits of fiber in our diet include: it helps us feel fuller longer, lowers our blood lipids and cholesterol, keeps things moving in our GI tract, and boosts our overall gut health.
So as you can see, it’s not going to be a one size fits all when it comes to carbohydrates. Carbs are something that if used in the proper amount can greatly benefit us and increase the performance of our bodies, but it’s something that also if used incorrectly and in excess it can lead to us feeling constantly drained. Are carbs a good thing? Yes. Are carbs a bad thing? Yes. However, if used correctly we can see amazing benefits.