Carbs: Eat or Eliminate?

EAT! Not all carbohydrates are bad, but are needed to fuel energy. The key is knowing your hearty carbs from the unhealthy ones. Most believe carbs are your basic breads and pastas. But carbs are more than grains. They are also fruits and dairy products.

There are three main groups of carbohydrates. They are broken down into sugar, starch and fiber. The sugar form is the simplest type of carb. These are found in fruits, vegetables and dairy products. Starches are complex carbs, formed from many sugar components. This form is found in some vegetables, grains and beans. The complex carb, known as fiber, naturally occurs in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans (1).

The key to eating grains is finding labels that show the word “whole”. Whole wheat means the product has not been refined. So the healthy components, like the endosperm and bran, are left intact. These unrefined products have more nutrients like B vitamins, iron, zinc and copper. Whole grain is made of unrefined grains like barley, rice, oats or flax (2). When breads are called "multigrain", that can mean it is made up with unrefined and refined grains. Not the best choice compared to whole.

Carbs fuel your muscles for your workout. Eating 1-3 hours before a workout is a great rule of thumb. Remember, carbs and protein are the dynamic duo before you exercise. Some suggestions for pre-workout carbs include:

  • Fruit with peanut butter – apples ad bananas are a quick, light snack to have before a workout; paired with a nut butter adds a source of protein and friendly fats

  • Greek yogurt with granola – Greek yogurt is a great source of protein and the added granola adds carbs to energy

  • Oats and berries – the favorite breakfast item supplies a great amount of carbs for a burst of energy in the morning

While protein is vital after a workout, it is suggested carbs are just as important. Our body’s energy source is stored as glycogen in our muscles. This is used during a workout and needs to be replenished afterwards.

Carb and protein combinations fuel a workout, as well as provide recovery. These whole food items can also aid in controlling weight. The fiber found in fruits, vegetables and whole grains makes you feel fuller longer, on fewer calories.

Bottom line, carbs provide energy and should be a part of a balanced diet. Eating a balanced diet of all whole foods is a part of living a healthy lifestyle.

1. Carbohydrrate: How Carbs Fit into a Healthy Diet. Published February 7, 2017.

2. Mohr CR. Timing Your Pre- and Post-Workout Nutrition. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.


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