Nicky caught in action eating the banana bread.
There seems to be so much confusing information around CARBS.
Every day I come across something different.
One expert telling you to cut all the carbs out of your diet…
Another saying you should detox all the sugar from what you eat…
And even another vegan expert telling you to eat high carbs…
It’s like going to a dance party and being stuck between 3 different dance floors with competing music. Do you go to the rap dance floor? Or to the funk? Or the pop? Which one is best? Ha!
Well maybe this isn’t the best analogy, but you get the drift, when there are a lot of differing opinions it’s hard to know which one is right for you.
Here at Saltwater Fit, Nick and I don’t subscribe to any dogmatic nutrition protocol, but instead prefer a scientific, evidence based approach that is sensible and sustainable.
So first I want to say:
Carbs are just fine!
They provide many vital nutrients to the body, that you can’t find anywhere else.
However if you’re interested in fat loss it is imperative that you keep in mind 2 things:
- Type of carbohydrate you are consuming
- Amount and proportion of carbohydrate serving with each meal
We’ll get into the recommended amount and type for optimal fat loss in just a second, but before let’s discuss a few of the basics around carbohydrates so you’ll have the tools and knowledge to make good use of the carbohydrate recommendations.
I’ve found that many of my clients are unaware of how much they are eating macronutrient wise each and every day. When you aren’t clear what you are eating it is hard to effectively implement any new information you have gained.
This next section will help you to categorize foods on your plate. By categorizing foods into their respective food groups you’ll be able to ensure you’re eating the right combination of foods at each meal.
What Are Carbs?
Carbohydrates are essentially any food that is NOT a protein or fat. It is almost easier to name what isn’t a carbohydrate then what is, because the carbohydrate list is so long.
Most common proteins are any kind of meat, poultry, fish, or eggs. When it comes to fat the most common are butter (or butter based products), full fat dairy, cheese, any oils, and avocado.
Everything else left is essentially a carbohydrate. Whoa, that’s a lot right?
Most folks know that grains are carbohydrates (in any form) like bread, pasta, and rice. But folks tend to forget that all fruits and veggies are carbohydrates too. In fact many veggies and fruits are loaded with sugar.
Some of the most sugary fruits are pineapple, mango, figs, and dates. Eating 1 mango has almost 50 grams of sugar, which is more than a can of coca-cola. Ouch, I bet that is a surprise, right?
How To Categorize Foods On Your Plate
You may also be wondering about some of the foods that have a combination of macronutrients in them like quinoa or nuts or peanut butter, where do they fit in?
The easiest way to think about this is to categorize the food by whatever macronutrient is predominant. For example quinoa contains protein, fat, and carbohydrate as you can see below.
But it contains the highest percentage of carbohydrates with almost 40 grams per 1 cup per serving, therefore classify this as a carbohydrate.
Here’s another popular example: Peanut Butter
It too contains all 3 macronutrients, but the highest percentage macronutrient is fat, so classify it as a fat.
Make sense ;)?
Now that you understand how to assess what’s on your plate, you will automatically increase your awareness around what you eat each and every day.
And now you are better positioned to use the information around carbohydrate consumption for optimal fat loss I am going to share with you.
Ideal Amount Of Carbohydrates To Eat Each Day?
Each individual requires a slightly different amount of daily carbohydrate intake. You’ll need to assess what body type you have, your level of activity, and your fitness goals. (You can determine what body type you have here).
In general, deriving about 1/3 of your calories from carbohydrates is a good place to start. From there you can tweak to your body type and lifestyle. Of those carbohydrates, deriving 80-90 percent of them from non-starchy vegetables and berries will set you up for optimal health and fat loss.
Here is a great image from Precision Nutrition of what your plate could look like:
Note: even though the veggies (carbs are taking up more than 1/3 of the plate, because they are so nutrient dense, it works out to be 1/3 of the calories).
What Types Of Carbohydrates To Eat For Fat Loss?
It’s all the rage to go low carb or no carb, and while I think for certain types of carbohydrates (like many grains and processed foods) this can be an effective and healthy strategy, I don’t believe this to be the case for all carbs.
We need vegetables, especially the non-starchy kinds – which are carbs. We also need some fruit, especially from the berry family as they provide essential vitamins and minerals and have very low sugar.
There are 3 very important reasons to eat veggies and fruit (berries) each and every day with every meal.
- Nutrients – there are vitamins, minerals, and other important nutrients that we can’t get anywhere else in our diet. For example, vegetables contain phytonutrients, important chemical compounds that provide antioxidants and other nutrients vital to the body for good health.
- Satiation – non- starchy vegetables are nutrient dense, meaning they provide many nutrients that our bodies need with very little calories. Therefore you can eat a much larger portion of them, providing you with a larger volume of food that contributes to your overall satiation and satisfaction level with a meal.
- Energy for workouts – when performing high intensity exercise like many sports or weight training, carbs are the preferred energy source in the body. Without sufficient carbs, you’re body will not be able to exercise at an intensity that will promote fat burning in the body.
Why Cutting Carbohydrates Is So Effective For Fat Loss?
Cutting carbohydrates is extremely effective for fat loss because:
- When you’re overeating carbohydrates, you’re likely overeating calories. Often times we are eating so many more carbohydrates than we thought. Not only are there carbohydrates in all of the aforementioned sources, but carbs are hidden in condiments, sauces, and dressings too.
- When you minimize your carbohydrates to non-starchy veggies and berries you minimize your insulin load and therefore keep blood sugar in check and avoid hunger and energy swings. This keeps your hunger in control, and could create a hormonal environment that is more conducive to fat burning.
- Eating fewer carbohydrates allows for more of the other macronutrients. Two common eating patterns I see, is either high carb/no fat OR high carb/high fat. Both of these eating patterns make it tougher for your body to shed unwanted fat. In both cases, there isn’t enough protein being consumed.
Hopefully now you have a greater understanding of what a carb is, how to better categorize what is on your plate, and how to integrate carbs more thoughtfully for optimal fat loss. It’s important to keep in mind that all carbs are not created equal.
Eating a candy bar is different than eating broccoli. Even though they are both primarily carbs, there’s a very different response in the body after eating each of these foods. The candy bar will not only give you 2-3 times the calories, but it will also make you hungrier sooner and the likelihood of overeating later in the days goes up dramatically. The candy bar also does not provide the same phyto chemicals or nutrients that the broccoli does.
Knowing this difference and being able to connect the dots between how certain carbs affect your body will give you the power to make better choices over time.
Better choices on a more consistent basis will lead to a healthier you.
So, enjoy your carbs! (At least the non-starchy veggies and berries:-))
Now I’d like to hear from you. What are your favorite quality carbs and how do you make sure you’re eating the right amount?