When you think of going on a “diet” what’s the first thing that comes to mind? If you thought lower my carb intake, you’re not alone. Although there are a myriad of diets out there, one of the most common misconceptions is that you have to banish carbs to get the body of your dreams. This simply is not true.
It is true that if you drop your carbohydrate intake, and in this case I am talking about starchy processed carbs, your weight will drop, but honestly, a lot of it will be from water.
Carbohydrates, or carbs as they are commonly referred to, are very much a necessary macronutrient that our body and brain need in order to function properly. As a matter of fact, go too low in your carbs, and your lean muscle will suffer. Lose your lean muscle tissue and your metabolism drops. When your metabolism drops, you have to eat even less. And so the vicious cycle begins.
So what’s the answer? If you gain weight when you eat carbs, how are you going to lose weight, put on muscle, keep your metabolism burning, and get the body of your dreams? Well, I don’t know about getting the body of your dreams, which takes a whole lot more than merely figuring out when and how many grams of carbs to eat, but you can eat in a way that carbohydrates will help you reach your goals.
What Are Carbohydrates?
First lets start defining carbohydrates. Fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, sugar, pasta, breads, cereals, and pastry: all of these foods are carbohydrates. Obviously they are not all bad for you.
Complex carbohydrates should make up the bulk of your diet, and that would include vegetables, fruits, grains, and legumes. They are loaded with fiber and nutrient dense.
The simple carbohydrates are the ones to avoid regardless of whether or not you are on a diet. These simple carbohydrates are the bread, pasta, cereal, and pastry category. They are processed foods, which lack nutrition and are usually high in sugar.
WHEN IS THE Best time to eat carbs
Now you know which carbs to eat, next is when you should eat them. Carbohydrates are a source of fuel. They fuel your muscles to be able to contract and even needed for your brain to function. One of best time to get your starchier carb sources in would be first thing in the morning.
While you were sleeping your body was using up your glycogen stores (stored carbohydrates in your muscle and liver) and glucose (stored carbohydrates in your blood). Since you are depleted when you wake up eating carbohydrates now will ensure your body uses them for what they were intended and not stored as fat.
The next best time to eat your carbs would be before or after your workouts. This holds true for both cardio and resistance training. This does not mean go have a huge bowl of oatmeal or load up on sweet potatoes. Too much at one time and it will get stored as fat. Stick to a serving size, which is about 25 grams (or ½ c of oatmeal), and you should be fine.
If you do crave some simple carbs, like bread or pasta, you’d be best off having them right after a workout, when your glycogen stores are depleted and looking to be filled.
Making a lifestyle change
It can be a little tricky trying to figure out how many carbs are good for your body in order to lose weight. It takes tracking your nutrition and counting your grams. The good news is, once you have a good feel for what is right for you, you will never need a diet again. You’re going to have a clear understanding of what your body can and cannot handle. And, when you get off track, because life is like that, your body will be able to handle it without the scale going up 5 pounds from one cupcake.
It may take a little longer to reach your goal than if you dropped carbs altogether, but I’m willing to bet you’ve tried that already and it didn’t work. You lost the weight, but it came right back when you couldn’t sustain the low carb diet any longer.
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Lisa Swanson is an ACE Certified Health Coach, Personal Trainer and Orthopedic Exercise Specialist as well as a certified AASDN and PN level 1 nutritionist. With over 35 years experience helping people turn their lives around, she is on a mission to provide relevant and useful knowledge to help women in midlife reach their goals.
Check out my interview with the Magnificent Midlife podcast on staying fit and healthy long-term.