Before you can make the decision as to how to handle carbs in your diet, you first have to understand what they are and how they work. Carbs can be divided into two main categories: simple and complex. Let’s look at each closely.
Simple Carbs – a.k.a. The ‘Bad’ Carbs
Simple carbs are the carbs that are in the simplest form and easy for your body to break down. And, because they’re capable of being broken down so quickly, your body can’t absorb all of the nutrients and reacts by spiking your blood sugar. The result? A high with a crash that’s sure to follow.
Examples of these simple carbs include:
- Chips and crackers
- White bread
- White rice
- White flour
Complex Carbs – a.k.a. The ‘Good Carbs
Complex carbs are comprised of three or more chains and thus harder for your body to break down and are commonly called the ‘good’ carbs. They don’t create the blood-sugar spike that simple carbs do and they’re usually higher in fiber.
Examples of these complex carbs include:
- Brown rice
- Wheat bread
- Whole grain cereal
- Wheat flour
Now that you understand the two different types of carbs, how do you determine how much you need to reach your weight loss and health fitness goals? Is a low-carb diet right for you?
Before you decide, check out what both sides have to say:
The Argument For Low-Carb Diets
Low-carb, or restricted carb diets, focus on limited consumption of carbohydrates of the complex variety and usually eliminate the simple carbs altogether. Proponents of low-carb diets argue that low-carb diets increase your energy and improve your mood. They also tought that it decreases your cravings and makes it easier to lose weight. Your desire to eat out of emotional reasons lessens, if it doesn’t leave completely.
Health-wise, supporters also argue that a low-carb diet improves joint pain, reduces instances of headaches and improves premenstrual syndrome (PMS) as well as digestive issues. It’s also suggested to lower blood cholesterol levels.
Low-carb or restricted carb diets have grown in popularity because they claim that diets of this type shift your metabolism from one of carbohydrate metabolism to fat metabolism. The result? Quicker and more efficient weight loss.
The Argument Against Low-Carb Diets
Those who are against low-carb diets agree that complex carbs are preferable over simple carbs, but caution that such drastic limitations of carbs as a whole is dangerous because you’re not giving your body the glucose it needs to function efficiently. It’s the loss of this key substance that leads your body to rid itself of water, essentially dehydrating itself. That’s why you tend to lose massive amounts of weight within the first couple of weeks of starting a low-carb diet plan.
Further, supporters of this position state that low-carb diets result in muscle loss. Because you’re not feeding your body carbohydrates, the muscles don’t get adequate muscle glycogen. Therefore, they contract less, causing breakdown. And, when carbohydrates are taken from your diet, your body processes protein instead. This increases the breakdown effect dramatically.
Finally, carb enthusiasts disagree with the claim that low-carb diets lower cholesterol. When you limit carbs, you have to replace the calories elsewhere. That usually means a diet that is higher in fat, which brings on a whole new set of issues. Now, you increase your risk of heart attacks, strokes, gall bladder and kidney issues, and more.
There is no definitive answer on which side wins. Both sides have studies that support their cause and back up their claim of better health and lower weight. That makes each seductive in their own way, leaving you in a tug-of-war when it comes to which ideology to follow.
So, where do you go from here? While you could still argue either way, maybe the safest bet is to go with the one issue that both sides agree upon, and that’s that simple carbs, or ‘bad’ carbs, should be either limited or eliminated completely from your diet.
Beyond that? Do what feels right for your body. When you eat carbs, or anything else for that matter, see how you feel. Do you feel better or worse? Satisfied or sick?
Maybe you feel okay after eating a meal that has one serving of complex carbs, but two makes you feel lethargic. Or, perhaps your blood sugar stays fairly stable when you’ve eaten two servings of fruit a day but any more than that sets you on a craving roller coaster that makes good choices almost impossible.
Everyone’s body is unique. Two people could eat the same exact diet, with identical carb intakes, and have extremely different results. One could gain weight and one could lose it. One could receive health benefits and the other could see a decline.
To know for sure what is right for you, you may want to consult with a doctor and/or dietician to determine what your specific body needs to function at its maximum capacity. They can run tests to figure out where your body is and create a plan to get it where you want to be.