Do you love carbs? Of course, you do! They're delicious! Carbohydrates are a great source of energy when our body converts them into glycogen. However, when you look at many diets that people are following these days, the majority of them are low or no carb. Look at the Atkins Diet and Ketogenic Diet, for example. Both utilize low or no carbohydrates. No more pizza?! OMG!
These types of diets give carbs a bad rap. They claim you will be able to quickly lose weight and burn fat by giving up this macronutrient. While they aren't lying (although much of the weight loss is water weight), it's a very challenging lifestyle to follow. For that reason, we need to better understand good carbs vs. bad carbs, so you know exactly what to look for and consume.
I think we all understand some of what can be categorized in each group, but below in this article, we will get into more detail. For the time being, let's make sure we are on the same page with some of the obvious. Is a donut a good carb or a bad carb? Well, it sure is tasty, and it could take a lot of mental toughness to pass on eating one, but as you know, it is considered a bad carb. How about an apple? Sure, it has "sugar" in it but is regarded as a good carb. Confused? Don't worry, we are going to dive a little deeper into this.
Simple vs. Complex Carbohydrates
A carb is not simply a carb. You can't paint the entire picture with one stroke of the brush. They aren't all created equal. You have certain foods that are considered simple carbohydrates. For the most part, you could categorize them as "bad carbs." These are carbs that are quick and easily digested and can provide a quick burst of energy – but can also cause your energy to plummet shortly after as well. They also generally are lacking fiber content as well as many vitamins and minerals.
While it's advised to stay away from simple carbohydrates such as white sugar, pastries, candy, soda, ice cream, juice, white pasta and white bread (white flour), sports drinks, and other processed or refined food items, there are some healthy options that we shouldn't remove from our nutrition. Some healthy simple carbs would be milk, fruit, and some vegetables – these items, when broken down and absorbed by the body, act more like complex carbohydrates.
So, then what is a complex carbohydrate? A complex carb is much slower digesting than its counterpart – the simple carbohydrate. They include vital micronutrients that are crucial for everyday functioning and processes. For many, it's the fiber content that also aids in slowing down digestion. Complex carbs supply the body with a slow yet steady form of energy. Examples of complex carbs would be brown rice, nuts, seeds, oats, beans, and whole grains, to name a few.
What the Heck Should I Eat? This Is So Confusing…
I get it, nutrition isn't the simplest thing to understand. Don't consume simple carbs, yet consume some. Eat this. Don't eat that. Sometimes it's enough to make you throw your hands up in the air. However, once you get a grasp of the basics and foundation, you'll be off to the races and will be able to make better choices with your carbohydrates.
So, if simple carbohydrates are "bad" (mostly) and complex carbohydrates are "good," what foods should I focus on to take in this macronutrient? The easiest way to determine if a carbohydrate choice is something to consider is to look at its form. If the carbohydrate is a whole food, it's generally something you should consider buying from the grocery store and consuming. If the item is packaged, processed, or refined (stripped of its fiber content), it's something you should generally stay away from.
Now, there are things such as pre-packaged fruit and vegetables that break this mold that I would still consider purchasing. Many of these packaged fruits and vegetables are still of the whole food variety and haven't been altered in any way to change the nutrients you would yield from them. It's merely a matter of convenience with these items, as many of them are frozen to preserve freshness. You thaw them before consuming, put them in a blender to flavor a smoothie, or in the case of vegetables, you heat them in the microwave or stovetop before eating them.
To summarize all of this into a brief and concise understanding… Stay away from processed and refined carbs. In fact, avoid them like the plague. Feel free to consume vegetables and fruits or other carbohydrate sources that are in their whole food state. When at the grocery store, the best carbohydrate options are those that will be on the outer walls of the store. Generally, everything you find up and down the aisles will be packaged and not a healthy carbohydrate source.
In the debate of good carbs and bad carbs, there's one more category we could throw into the mix, and that would be performance carbs. You might be scratching your head, wondering what the heck that is, but it's not as complicated as you may imagine. Performance carbohydrates help replenish glycogen stores to help accelerate recovery. They can rapidly fuel your performance without the stomach discomfort you may experience when using other forms of carbohydrates.
If you were to use an example of performance carbs, you could look no further than NutraBio Super Carb. This performance carb utilizes 100% highly branched cyclic dextrin, is Non-GMO, has ultra-low osmolarity, is perfect for glycogen loading, can show positive hormonal benefits, and has the ability to improve athletic performance. Not only that, but Super Carb contains 822mg of electrolytes to help maintain proper hydration.
Whether you are getting ready for a brutal workout or need to carb-up for athletics, NutraBio Super Carb is a quick, easy, and convenient way to help boost your performance and recovery. You can even add NutraBio Super Carb to your post-workout nutrition plan to help replenish the glycogen stores you tapped into during your workout.
By: Matt Weik, BS, CSCS, CPT, CSN