Although Too Old To Tumble is more focused on fitness than weight loss, as we approach Spring (hurry up, please!) people inevitably start to take their diet more seriously and suddenly carbs become the public enemy number one. So here is some information that will hopefully clarify the role that carbohydrates play in our nutrition so that you can make informed choices from now on.
Starchy carbs get so much attention when it comes to nutrition conversations because they are the biggest double-edged sword our bodies have to deal with. On one hand, all of our energy in the body comes from glucose molecules (carbs in their basic sugar form) but on the other, our bodies weren’t designed to be surrounded by so many readily available carbs.
So when our body does get an onslaught of starchy carbs (usually from refined sugars in all of our indulgence foods or simple carbs found in anything baked with flour), it handles them by releasing insulin. Insulin is responsible for a lot of important functions in the body, but by design, it is a storage hormone. So instead of signaling our body to burn fat, our bodies actually get the signal to store fat whenever we eat a lot of starchy carbs.
This is why you can expect to make the biggest dent in your weight loss if you begin to control starchy carbs with every meal.
Where are Carbs Found?
Carbs are found in a lot of different foods but in general you can view them in this distinction:
FIBROUS VS. STARCHY
Fibrous Carbs Rich Foods that Help with Fat Loss: ✔️
- Raw or lightly cooked vegetables
- Beans and legumes
- Some fruits (mostly berries)
Starchy Carbs that Work Against Fat Loss: ❌
- All sweets, jelly and jams
- Fizzy drinks, fruit juices, fruit drinks
- Pudding, custards and other sweets
- Processed refined grains like flour or white rice
- Bread and pasta made with any refined flour
- Cakes, biscuits and other sweet bakery products
What Do We Mean by “Controlling” Starchy Carbs?
First, notice that the emphasis is not on eliminating carbs but rather on controlling them. Our brains tend to be resistant to restriction, so we want to add the “right foods” to crowd out the foods that aren’t serving our interests.
In addition, “controlling” carbs also acknowledges that it’s not realistic to avoid all of the foods in the “Against Fat Loss” carbs lists. We all like to indulge, so it’s important to learn how to enjoy those foods without affecting your waist line.
Another way of explaining this is to think of carbs control as substitutional. The goal is to substitute as many of the “against fat loss” carbs with “help with fat loss” carbs.
So in order to achieve the above, start by practicing one (or both) of these strategies throughout your day to control carbs:
1. Substitute the carbs not working for you with better quality carbs
- Fill more of your plate with protein or crowd it out with more veggies (as they are technically carbs as well)
- Shift from more processed foods to less processed foods
- Shift from breads and white rice to Ezekiel bread and brown rice
- Swap pastas for quinoa or chickpeas pasta
- Potatoes to sweet potatoes (or any root vegetable)
2. Eat your “Against Fat Loss” carbs after a workout
The intense workouts I create for my clients are designed to drain your muscles of as much sugar as possible. Thus, right after a workout, your body is keener on storing any incoming sugars (i.e. carbs) into your muscles instead of into fat. Therefore, if you still wish to indulge in pastas, pizzas, breads, sweets etc. feel free to do so ONLY after your workouts.
You can even think of it as a way of “earning your indulgence carbs.” This should not be done daily, however. But a few times per week is OK. 🙂
And don’t forget your portions!
For women, when you are not working out, limit the quantity of starchy carbs to what you can fit into a cupped hand, double it if you are a man reading this.
I hope this gives you a better understanding of what carbs truly are and how they work in the body!
Have questions? Ask away in the comments below!