To Carb or Not to Carb….

Are you as sick of the carb debate as I am?

Let’s get straight to the heart of it:  what are carbs anyway, and why should we care?

Here’s a definition straight from my personal trainer textbook, so it’s simple enough for gym rats, ie, muscle-heads (not me, of course….), to understand:  “Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of energy….Glucose, the end result of carbohydrate digestion, is essential in maintaining the functional integrity of nerve tissue, directs the rest of your body’s maintenance, and IS THE SOLE SOURCE OF ENERGY FOR THE BRAIN under normal circumstances.”

That’s why we care about carbs.

You need to know there are 2 types of carbs:  simple and complex.  Of course you should eat mostly complex.  That’s why I encourage you to take all the refined foods out of your diet.  Eat whole grains.  Whole fruits.  Whole vegetables.  Those are complex.

When you live mainly (50% daily calories) on simple carbs like most Americans, and mostly from these 8 sources:  soft drinks; cake/doughnuts/pastries/pizza; potato chips; popcorn; white rice and breads; beer; and french fries, that’s high carbohydrate/low nutrition food.  So you get calories to burn, but no phyto-nutrients, no vitamins, no minerals, no fiber, no long-term fuels and amino acids for maintenance and repair.  And you don’t feel full for very long.  Your body is constantly asking for a fix, because it burns right through that simple stuff.

On the other hand, if you limit your carbs (think diet-in-a-book) like the all-protein-have-your -steak-and-put-butter-on-it-too-plan, your body will use protein for fuel (it’s not stupid.   No carb fuel?  Substitute!) which will seriously compromise your ability to build and maintain tissue.  If you do it long enough, you’ll develop something called ketosis—a potentially fatal condition–because you can’t break down fat.

So keep it simple.  Eat as many fruits and vegetables as you can.  Think of a serving size as a handful.  Mix it up.  Raw is great.  Steamed is fine.  Eat some nuts, too.  Every day.  And keep in mind that a glass of orange juice is nice, but it’s concentrated, so you’re getting more calories than just eating an orange, and you’re getting NONE of the fiber, the phytonutrients, the amino acids that you get from the piece of fruit.

When you put a grain into your mouth, make it a whole one.  Be sure to check the label on everything processed for trans-fats….it’s still legal to sneak them in there.

With all that in mind, I say:  Carb-ON!

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