Remember that FRIENDS episode where Rachel’s sister tells Joey “A moment on the lips, forever on the hips” as he’s about to bite off a slice of pizza? For decades, carbohydrates, or carbs have been considered to be the arch nemesis of anyone attempting to lose weight. Healthy living and carbs don’t go together, or so we’ve been told! Truth be told, carbs don’t deserve the bad repute they get.
So, how about debunking myths about carbs?
Myths About Carbs
Let’s dispel some of the most common myths about carbs and find out what lies beyond conjecture.#1 Carbs Cause Weight Gain
Weight gain is the unified outcome of several factors, including consumption of more calories than you can burn, lack of physical activity, and underlying health conditions. Carbs alone cannot make you gain weight. In fact, carbs are an essential part of a healthy and balanced diet.
You can counter weight gain by eating a balanced diet comprising seasonal fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, etc. Cut down on refined sugar consumption, include some form of physical activity (brisk walking, running, gymming, swimmings, etc.), and check for underlying health conditions. Excessive fast food consumption, and alcohol intake may also result in weight gain. You should also be mindful of your dairy intake.
Control your meal portions. It not only helps in keeping your calorie intake in check, but also helps in preventing food wastage.
#2 Carbs Should Not Be Consumed At Night
Excessive consumption of any food is not advisable at night, but that does not mean you have to completely cut out the carbs. There is no scientific proof to carbs causing extra weight gain when consumed at night. In fact, complex carbohydrates like quinoa, sweet potatoes, barley, and the likes can keep you full for a longer period of time. Carbs also boost serotonin production, which can, in turn, lead to a peaceful night’s sleep.
Instead of stuffing yourself with food, make sure to eat a light dinner. Have it early and allow enough time for your body to process your meal. Do not miss out on portion control.#3 Carbs Are Synonymous with Gluten
Sure, carbs and gluten are usually found in the same food items like breads, cakes, pastas, beer, etc. but these two are as different as chalk and cheese. Gluten, unknown to most, is nothing but a specific group of proteins while carbs are, well, carbs! They are two different food groups - carbs are made up of sugars and starches.
Gluten can cause allergic reactions in certain individuals and that’s why food markets often have gluten-free food options for consumption. But gluten-free food is not always free of carbs.
The trick is to reduce the consumption of refined carbohydrates and include complex carbohydrates in your diet.#4 Carbs Cause Food Coma
You only tend to feel sluggish after heavy meals that are high in protein and salt content. While carbs are most likely to be a part of a full course meal, they alone do not cause lethargy after consumption. You can be productive and active even after carb consumption - all that matters is how much you eat, when you eat, and what type of carbs you eat.
Combat food coma by having light but filling meals. Do not get into the habit of snoozing or napping post lunch. Choose complex carbohydrates, cut down on salt intake, and keep yourself hydrated throughout the day to avoid languor.#5 Carbs Are Not Needed Pre and Post Workout
A protein-heavy pre and post workout meal is the usual go to for those aiming for muscle gain. But contrary to popular belief, proteins along with carbohydrates contribute to muscle health. That’s why cutting the carbs from your workout meal prep isn’t advisable.
Consuming the right kind of carbs before working out supplies the body with the energy it needs to sustain itself. Meanwhile, you need carbs to fuel muscle rebuilding after a gruelling gym or pilates session.#6 Reducing Carb Intake Burns More Fats
Carbs are the ultimate source of energy for the human body and that’s why, some people tend to believe cutting carbs can help them burn fats. While a ketogenic diet can help some people, others can run on fats without burning enough calories that makes a tangible difference.
A keto diet should be undertaken only under expert supervision and well-supplied with ketogenic recipes that provide the body with the nutrition it needs. Otherwise, reducing carb intake is no guarantee of burning the desired amount of fat from your body.#7 Carbs Are Bad For Health
While a lot depends on the type of carbohydrates you include in your daily diet, complex carbs are an essential part of any well-balanced diet. These help in maintaining heart and gut health, provide the body with a continuous, slow-burning source of energy, and even play a positive role in controlling blood sugar levels. Just choose whole grains over refined ones.
The key to healthy living lies in knowing your carbs, rather than completely cutting them out. A diet sans carbs can lead to ketosis which causes weakness, irritability, lethargy, headaches, etc.#8 You Don’t Need Carbs
On the contrary, of course you do! Carbohydrates comprise an essential macronutrient that your body needs to function optimally. Carbs are found in everything from fruits and vegetables to whole grains. Not all carbs are the same. Some are simple, some are complex. While simple carbs can be found in fruits, vegetables, and dairy, even processed food, cookies, etc. contain simple carbs. As long as you’re getting your carbs from a healthy source, you should not live a carb free life!
Choose a healthy mix of simple (fruits) carbs and complex carbs (whole grains). Eat wisely. All shall be well!#9 You Can Tag Good Carbs by Their Glycemic Index
Glycemic Index is a scale of 0 to 100 which measures the rise in your blood sugar level after two hours of consumption in comparison to pure glucose, arbitrarily given a value of 100. Can you always use the Glycemic Index to determine which carbs are good for you? No. Most times, we do not consume just carbs. Therefore, the result on the Glycemic Index is not always accurate.
Food that is low on the Glycemic Index may contain more fibers and therefore help in digestion. But just on its own, it’s not a good judge of how ‘good’ the carb is.
Choose A Healthy Lifestyle
No matter what your goal is - losing weight or gaining muscles, making carbs your enemy won’t help you reach the finishing line. Instead, take some time out and define what your target is. Now build a lifestyle in terms of diet, exercise, daily practices and habits that can help you achieve your target.
But always remember, our bodies are just as unique as we are and therefore react differently to the same diet or exercise routine. Instead of freaking out, be patient. Talk to an expert, maybe consult a dietician before cutting out certain food items (read carbs) from your life.
In the end, the gains you make will all help you lead a healthy life. And there should be no compromises or myths to affect achieving that goal.