Carbohydrate Myths Debunked
Are you avoiding carbohydrates like the plague, or have you been brainwashed by social media and fitness forums to think of them as the “bad guy”? Carbohydrates have received a bad reputation by many fitness-minded individuals, and it’s time for some intervention.
There are quite a bit of misconceptions when it comes to carbohydrates and we’re here to debunk them all.
Myth 1 - Carbohydrates Are Bad
Contrary to what bro-science dictates, carbohydrates are vital for functioning at optimal levels. Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of fuel.1
As you go through the day, whether you are working out or just going about your daily life, the body uses carbohydrates as a source of energy to keep you moving. Consuming carbs in a well-balanced diet allows your body to store away carbohydrates as muscle glycogen which is then converted to energy.
That being said, carbohydrates should be consumed in moderation and in accordance with your level of fitness and personal dietary requirements.
Myth 2 - All Carbohydrates Are the Same
Unfortunately, a jelly-filled doughnut affects the body differently than, say, brown rice or oatmeal. This is because there are two major carbohydrate forms: complex and simple.
Complex carbohydrates — found in foods like rice, vegetables, and legumes — are long chain molecules that are able to provide the body with energy without spiking insulin levels, due to their slower digestion rate.2
Simple carbohydrates, like those found in cake, candy, and refined sugar products, provide energy to the body and are broken down much quicker than complex carbohydrates.3 Because simple carbohydrates are digested quickly, they tend to spike insulin and have a greater chance to be stored away as fat. This doesn’t mean, however, that simple carbohydrates should be completely avoided. They are often used as a source of instant energy for physical activity.
Consumed in moderation, simple and complex carbohydrates can provide you with both instant and longer lasting fuel for enhanced performance and well-being.
Myth 3 - Carbohydrates Make You Fat
Carbohydrates don’t make you fat; making poor decisions in regard to carbohydrates can. Anything in extreme excess can have a negative effect on the body, including exercise.
Remembering that all carbohydrates are not created equally means that you can use them to your advantage. That said, while carbohydrates can be stored away as fat if consumed in excess, they can equally be great energy sources and even “perfect for permanent weight control.”4
Carbohydrates ability to support weight management has been illustrated countless times in clinical studies, one of which shows that a diet high in slow-digesting carbohydrates was able to suppress hunger better than a diet low in slow-digesting carbohydrates.5
Add complex carbohydrates to your diet for good sources of long-lasting energy, and don’t worry about indulging in tasty simple carbohydrates in moderation, too!
Myth 4 - Don’t Eat Carbohydrates before Bed
Those trying to manage their weight and even shed some pounds may have heard that eating carbohydrates late at night will surely increase fat gain. The belief behind carbohydrates at night is that the body’s metabolic rate slows down during sleep, meaning that you won’t optimally digest and absorb carbohydrates, resulting in more fat.
This isn’t entirely true, however. Research shows that overnight metabolic rates and basal metabolic rates are similar6 and non-obese individuals’ metabolic rate during sleep has actually even been shown to be higher than their resting metabolic rate.7
There’s nothing wrong with avoiding carbohydrates at night, but you can at least rest assured knowing that if you do consume some simple or complex carbs before bed, they won’t automatically lead to weight gain.
The Take Away
Carbohydrates are important macronutrients that help your body operate properly. Medical authorities recommend that carbohydrates make up anywhere from 45-65% of your total daily calories.8 Athletes and active individuals may even consume more to help their bodies recover after exercise.
Whatever your fitness goals may be, utilize carbohydrates to your advantage. By incorporating them into a well-rounded diet, you can take your results to the next level and increase your sense of well-being.
RECOMMENDED FOR YOU
- Jequier E. Carbohydrates as a source of energy . Am J Clin Nutr. 1994 Mar;59(3 Suppl):682S-685S.
- Complex Carbohydrates . Medline Plus.
- Simple Carbohydrates. Medline Plus.
- Permanent Weight Control . Physicians Committee For Responsible Medicine.
- Andrea Sparti, et al. Effect of diets high or low in unavailable and slowly digestible carbohydrates on the pattern of 24-h substrate oxidation and feelings of hunger in humans. Am J Clin Nutr December 2000. Vol. 72. No. 6.
- Seale JL, Conway JM Eur J Clin Nutr. Relationship between overnight energy expenditure and BMR measured in a room-sized calorimeter. 1999 Feb;53(2):107-11.
- Zhang K, et al. Sleeping metabolic rate in relation to body mass index and body composition. 2002 Mar;26(3):376-83.
- J Am Coll Cardiol. Nutrition and Healthy Eating . Mayo Clinic.