Carbs: Not created equal

Carbs are NOT evil!

You may have heard me say this time and time again, and I stand by it. However, carbs are also not created equal. We are constantly bombarded by fad diets that have messages that carbs are not good for you. But carbohydrates are one of the three ESSENTIAL macronutrients. We all may vary about what type and how much we can handle, but we still need them.

Wait, what? If they’re not evil, can I eat potato chips and bread all day?

You can. That is a choice. But don’t expect results in and outside the gym!

So what do I mean all carbs are not equal?

Let’s start at the beginning. Carbs are really good for you. You need them actually. Carbohydrates are our bodies main fuel source, and where we get most of our energy. Carbs are broken down into glucose then absorbed into our blood stream. So when we eat carbs, depending the type and amount, our glycemic index rises. If you are diabetic you know this cycle well.

So, we need carbs, but what is a carb? How much? When?

Of course my answer is, it depends who you are. As always, nutrition is not a one size fits all, and some people can tolerate different carbs than others. But what we should be watching for is the glycemic index. Carbs with a high gylcemic index spike our blood sugar quickly (think candy, and that sugar rush) where carbs with a lower glycemic index don’t raise our blood sugar quite as quickly (think peas).

Here are some examples of low-glycemic carbs

  • Brown rice
  • Steel-cut oats
  • whole-grain bread
  • peas, leafy greens
  • most veggies (except root veggies, corn, carrots)
  • Fruit w/no added sugar
  • Sweet potatoes
  • legumes
  • nuts (also high in fat and protein)

Here are some examples of high-glycemic carbs:

  • White/processed breads
  • Candy
  • Sugar
  • Corn, carrots, root veggies
  • Instant foods (instant oatmeal, instant potatoes)
  • white rice
  • baked potato
  • honey
  • potato chips

Controlling our blood sugar can help with weight loss and overall health. But notice I haven’t said that high glycemic carbs are necessarily bad. There is a time and place for high glycemic carbs. When we workout, our muscles only have a limited glycogen storage to take from, so it depletes quickly. Eating high glycemic carbs post workout is the most efficient time our body can process these carbs, within 15 minutes to two hours of our workouts. This replenishes the depleted glycogen in our muscles. Which is why, if you have cut out carbs completely, you might find that you are not recovering well, lack energy during exercise, and fatigue quickly.

You may notice that the processed, man made foods typically have a higher glycemic index than those whole foods. As always, try to eat as fresh and whole as possible, avoiding processed foods. However, make sure you are getting enough carbs throughout the day. Make sure you are fueling correctly. There are a WIDE variety of carbs, and even if you are intolerant to one, there are many more to chose from!


As always, if you are interested in dialing in your nutrition visit our Nutrition page or email