Carbs sometimes get a bad reputation. This is typically from those who do not have a full understanding of how carbs are used. Carbs are, in fact, the body’s preferred energy source and are used for a variety of normal, basic functions. Like any other macronutrient, however, too much of a good thing can have negative effects. That is why it is so important to understand carbs and how to use them.
The No-to-Low-Carb Movement
It seems every several years that low-carb diets become in fashion. From the Atkins diet, to the Dukan diet, to the basic ketogenic diet, people are always on the lookout for ways to trim down and lose fat.
Although some evidence points to the effectiveness of such diets, whether they are sustainable over the long-term is another question entirely. The good news, however, is that carbs can play an important role in your diet without many of the reported negative consequences. The key, however, is knowing what carbs to eat and when to eat them.
Simple Versus Complex Carbs
There are two types of carbohydrate: simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates are broken down very rapidly. Things like white bread, rice and doughnuts are all examples of simple carbs. Complex carbohydrates, on the other hand, take longer to break down and may not cause as large of a spike in blood sugar. Things like vegetables, whole grains and brown rice are great examples.
When to Eat Them
When you eat carbs can have the greatest impact on their effects. Eating a simple carb, such as a doughnut, before going to bed will almost certainly lead to fat gain. Eating that doughnut before running a marathon, on the other hand, will help ensure that it is burnt as fuel.
The two best times to eat carbs are pre and post-workout. Carbs taken pre-workout will be used as fuel. carbs taken after a workout will be used to replenish glycogen stores to ensure you have fuel for the next challenge.
For longer periods of exertion, complex carbs may be preferable as they provide a slow and steady release of energy. Although simple carbs also have their place, eating too many of them without a corresponding use of energy can lead to fat storage and weight gain.