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Carbs Are NOT The Enemy. Here’s Everything You Need to Know.
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February 10, 2021

Hey Guys!

Every time I post about what I eat in a day, I get A TONNN of questions about carbs. Things like:

  • “Why don’t you eat carbs?”
  • “So are you keto?”
  • “Do you ever eat ____ (bread, sweets, etc.)?!!”

So I thought it was time to go over this in a little more detail. I don’t want my posts about my diet to confuse anyone and I don’t want to demonize carbs AT ALL. And yes, I DO EAT CARBS. Just maybe not the typical foods most people think of.

This post is written with a mixture of my personal experience, research, and with insight from our Registered Dietitian, Breanna Woods!

So. Let’s do a little carb 101, shall we?

display case with breads pastries carbs bakery

What are carbohydrates? 

Carbohydrates are one of the three macronutrients (the other two are protein and fat!). You need all of the macronutrients to be healthy, but the amount needed varies from person to person.

Even though carbs do a lot of good things in the body (we’ll talk more about that later), they get a lot of attention when it comes to diet culture. Even though not all carbs are created equal, they’ve kind of become grouped into one “bad food” category – thanks to diets like keto that severely restrict them.

But like I said, not all carbs are the same! “Carbohydrates” include starches, fiber and sugar. All three work differently in the body.

Types of Carbs

Carbohydrates are more than just bread, pasta, pastries, and sweets. Healthy foods like fruits and veggies have carbs too! However, not all carbs are created equal.

Starches: these are foods like potatoes/sweet potatoes, legumes, lentils, grains like bread, pasta and crackers.

Fiber: if you’re looking for more fiber, go for plant-based foods: fruits, veggies and whole grains! Fiber is amazing for your digestive system, your cardiovascular system (see ya cholesterol), and can help you feel full between meals. Be sure to drink plenty of water if you’re upping your fiber intake … it can make you super bloated if you suddenly eat more than your body is used to!

Sugar: We all know what sugar is, but this can be broken down more into naturally-occurring sugar from fruit and dairy, and added sugar (table sugar). Foods with naturally-occurring sugar also have super healthy things like fiber, vitamins, and minerals. In other words – don’t fear those foods! If you feel like you should limit sugar, focus on added sugar. These are added during processing to things like baked goods, soda, and other more “processed” foods.

Whether or not a carb is refined is important too. More refined = more processed. So for example, white rice, breads and pastas. They’re stripped of fiber and other nutrients during processing, whereas brown rice, whole grain pastas, and whole grain breads aren’t. Since refined grains don’t have the fiber to slow digestion, they raise your blood sugar more quickly.

Carbs = energy

Carbs are the body’s preferred energy source.

When you eat carbohydrates, the body breaks them down into glucose, which enters the cells to be used as fuel. Glucose provides fuel to the whole body, but it’s especially important for the brain.

Extra glucose is stored in the liver and muscles. This is what your body uses later during a workout! Yes, some glucose may be stored as fat. Can your body use fat and protein as fuel if there isn’t enough glucose? Yep! But it’s not as efficient and could even compromise muscle growth.

90 day meal plan banana pancakes stacked on a white plate topped with blueberries

How many carbs do I need? 

It depends!

We all have different carbohydrate needs depending on our age, gender, build, activity level, and goals. For the average person, carbs make up ~40-65% of calories eaten each day. That means if you eat a 2000 calorie diet, 800 – 1200 calories would come from carbohydrates.

A “low-carb diet” usually refers to making carbohydrates 10-30% of your total daily calories. The keto diet decreases the amount of carbs you eat even further, to under 50 grams per day. For a 2000 calorie diet, that’s only 10% of the total daily calories.

A low carb or keto diet may help you lose weight, but may also cause side effects like headache and fatigue. I tried this at the beginning of my 90-Day Journey and DID NOT feel good (but I have seen it work for some people!). Restricting carbs means you may miss out on important vitamins and minerals from fruit, starchy vegetables, and grains.

 

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For me, it’s about eating real food

Like I said before, I’m not planning my day around how many carbs I eat. I’ve had my fair share of letting the numbers control my life – calories, macros, my weight, etc. and it was just too much. I was obsessed and not actually enjoying my food.

Now, I just eat real food. I’m happier AND healthier.

So at a glance, it may look like my meals are light on carbs. That’s because you normally won’t see much pasta, bread, rice or sweets (except ice cream). Those things just make me feel BLAH. They’re not totally off-limits, but I don’t eat them on a daily basis. Instead, I fill my plates with fruits and veggies – which are still CARBS. They nourish my body, give me energy, and make me feel good.

11 thoughts on “Carbs Are NOT The Enemy. Here’s Everything You Need to Know.”

There are 11 comments posted by our users.

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  1. Nikki says:

    This information may be more geared towards those who have the metabolism to process carbs/starch and/or don’t have an intolerance. My body rejects these foods and will automatically give me the worst stomach cramps. Keto is poorly misunderstood and looked at as a “diet.” It is meant for short-term use as a transition into low carb and then paleo (if you can handle the more gluten-free type of foods).
    Also, if you do eat whole wheat items it has to be organic otherwise it is sprayed with products like round-up.

  2. Inga says:

    Also, what you didn’t mention (but is good to know) is that everybody’s metabolism reacts differently to different “kinds” of carbs. Some experience a blood sugar spike and increased inflammation after having refined carbs, some don’t. Unfortunately there is no sure way to know which type you are if you don’t take some kind of metabolism type test, but if you never experienced bad side effects from eating refined carbs and don’t feel better when you leave them out, there is no reason to religiously avoid them.

  3. Prisha says:

    I love how colorful your meals are!

  4. KP says:

    Hey Casey! I’m taking a Nutrition class right now and my professor who is also a dietician mentioned the same things! Carbs do get a bad rep but they really are important for energy. Been trying to take steps to eating more whole food carbs. Thanks for this post!

    1. Inga says:

      Also, what you didn’t mention (but is good to know) is that everybody’s metabolism reacts differently to different “kinds” of carbs. Some experience a blood sugar spike and increased inflammation after having refined carbs, some don’t. Unfortunately there is no sure way to know which type you are if you don’t take some kind of metabolism type test, but if you never experienced bad side effects from eating refined carbs and don’t feel better when you leave them out, there is no reason to religiously avoid them.

      1. Inga says:

        Sorry, this was meant as a general comment not a reply to you, I clicked the wrong button

  5. Amira says:

    Dear Cassey,
    I started my fitness journey in the beginning of quarantine, and I’ve been doing bodyweight workouts ever since. I heard how beneficial strength training can be, and as a 14 year old, I want to try it out myself!
    However, my parents are not so convinced by this idea, they think it might stunt my growth. I am not very tall to begin with, and I still have more time to grow, but I was wondering if using light dumbbells (1-3 kgs) and resistance bands could affect my height??

    Sincerely,
    Wants To Try Strength Training

    1. Meghan says:

      Dear Wants To Try Strength Training,
      I can assure you that weight training is not going to stunt your growth. Its actually a myth! No studies have shown that lifting weights stunts or inhibits growth. But! If you do too much too soon, physical problems can occur no matter how old the person. So make sure you don’t do to much at once. If your an overweight adolescent, (I’m not saying you are) you should begin with mostly cardiovascular exercise, and train with light weights. A good diet full of protein along with colorful fruits and vegetables. But is your somewhere between sedentary and athletic, you can as a beginner work out three times a week. Try to stay away from compound movements like a bench press or deadlift as their execution is very technical, and you can injure yourself if you are not under proper supervision. So overall, NO WEIGHT LIFTING WILL NOT STUNT YOUR GROWTH.

      Hope this is helpful!

      1. Amira says:

        Thanks so much for your reply! But, to counter what you said ”no studies have shown that lifting weights stunts or inhibits growth”, my parents are saying, ”no studies have also shown that lifting weights DOESN’T stunt growth”… So now I’m really confused as I don’t know how to convince them! Hoping some advice from Cassey could help!

        1. Meghan says:

          Sorry to confuse you!

    2. georgi says:

      I don’t think so, if anything, I think it would even out your body composition and make you appear taller.

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