Carbs are a hotly debated topic, especially in the weight-loss world, due in part to diets such as the Atkins, Dukan, South Beach, and Ketogenic Diet. But they’re essential to your health and performance.
First, glucose gotten from carbs is your brain and your body’s main source of fuel. You need glucose as an energy source for exercise. And after a strenuous workout, your muscles need the additional fuel of carbohydrates to recover.
Everyone needs a certain baseline of carbohydrates just to survive (about 130 grams per day). Without it, you would lose consciousness and simply die.
How Carbs Are Ranked With The Glycemic Index
It’s simply a way to measure how quickly foods raise blood sugar levels. The GI is a relatively new way of understanding how different types of food affect our blood glucose levels.
It tells us whether carbohydrates in food send our blood sugar up more slowly or quickly. And it does this by ranking them from 0 to 100.
Carbohydrates with a low GI score, 55 or less, make our blood sugar rise more slowly. Carbohydrates with a high score, 70 or more, ramp up blood sugar quickly. You can find the GI of foods on the Glycemic Index website and you’ll notice that whole foods like fruits and vegetables have lower GI scores because they’re digested slowly.
A general rule is the lower the GI score, the healthier the food.
For instance, white bread has a GI of over 100, which is very high. White potatoes have a GI of about 55, which is low.
Is it bad to eat a lot of carbs?
A few extra grams of good carbs per day isn’t bad for your body as long as the majority of it comes from whole grains (e.g. whole oats, brown rice, etc.), vegetables (e.g. cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, and leafy greens), fruits (e.g. broccoli or apple) and nuts (e.g. almonds). (1)
Since carbohydrates also give you energy throughout the day, this type of carbohydrate consumption is fine for most healthy people and their weight-loss goals.
Processed carbs (a.k.a., bad carbs) on the other hand, have no fiber to slow down digestion; instead, they just spike your blood sugar levels with very little energy.
These are often found in candy bars, ice cream, and other sugary desserts.
Avoid them and their high GI versions (e.g. white bread, white potatoes, and white rice) as these foods will make you hungrier, put you in a bad mood, and promote fat storage. Even worse, they’ll send your blood sugar through the roof!
Are carbohydrates really making us fat, or are we eating too much?
Some believe that all carbs from any source are bad. While others argue that carbohydrates alone will make you fat — not protein and fat.
Should you avoid carbs entirely?
Carbs are also an excellent way to satisfy cravings and make it easier to lose weight.
How many carbs per day is too much?
If you’re a casual couch potato, who doesn’t exercise much, then the current recommendation is to eat 55 percent of your total calories from carbohydrates.
But if you work out regularly or are in very good shape, then the recommendation is 30-35 percent of your total calories from carbs.
Or if you’re a bodybuilder or weightlifter who is dieting, you still need to consume at least 45 percent of your total calories from carbs.
Eating carbs won’t make you fat. Eating too many calories, regardless of whether they’re from carbs or fat, will.
However, carbs have the biggest impact on your blood glucose levels. So, check your labels to determine the glycemic index (GI) of what you’re eating.