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Are Carbs the Enemy?

This is the first of a three part series on macronutrients - carbohydrates, protein and fat. This week I’ll talk about the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to carbohydrates. Next week I’ll try to give you an unbiased answer to how much protein do you really need.
For now lets talk about carbohydrates...
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When people talk about losing weight, they often tell me they are cutting out carbs. With the rise of low carb diets like Atkins, many people feel that by cutting out carbs they will lose weight. The truth is that our bodies need carbohydrates, but possibly not the ones you are eating. Read on to get more of your questions about carbohydrates answered.

How much do I need?

Most people who are not on a low carb diet get more than enough carbohydrates. For most people paying attention to the types of carbohydrates they are eating is more important than getting enough. In general the amount of carbohydrates you need depends on how active you are. A very active person, especially an endurance athlete needs more carbohydrates to fuel her activity. For most people carbohydrates are digested best after exercise. Some people are more carbohydrate tolerant than others, so you may have to experiment to find the right amount for you. Women can try about a cupped handful at every meal.

Won’t I lose weight faster if I cut out carbs completely?

The popularity of low carb diets is mostly due to the rapid weight loss that occurs with them, however that weight loss is often not sustainable. The initial weight loss is usually water. Muscle mass can also be lost. Studies have shown that people usually gain all the weight back that they lose. Healthy foods such as vegetables and fruits are limited and these types of diets do not contain nearly enough fibre.

What types of carbs should I eat?

The best carbohydrates to include are the least processed and naturally low in sugar. This includes vegetables, legumes (beans, peas and lentils), and whole grains. Fruit can also be included, but it can contain a lot of natural sugar, so it shouldn’t be lumped in with vegetables. All of these foods contain vitamins and fibre so they are not just carbohydrates.  They also tend to be slower to digest which helps to keep your blood sugar from going up to quickly.

When should I eat carbs?

Some healthy carbohydrates should be eaten at every meal. During or immediately after exercise is the only time that quick digesting carbohydrates are needed. At these times the body often needs carbohydrates replenished quickly. Depending on your needs a sports drink, a piece of fruit or even a cookie works well during or after exercise.

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