Josh Bowen: Are Carbs the Enemy?

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Are Carbs the Enemy?

To over simplify the destruction of the American diet by saying any one thing is the culprit, is in fact a problem. No one “thing” is the problem and the reason so many are overweight and out of shape. Yes, our nutrition is an issue, but quantifying it by labeling carbs or fats as the sole issue is a gross generalization. Carbs are no the enemy and in many cases can be very helpful for muscle growth, energy levels and nutrients we need. The type of carbohydrates matters more than anything. Lets discuss.

What is a carbohydrate?

Carbs are organic molecules classified according to their structure, simple and complex. A simple carb are smaller, more easily processed molecules known as mono and disaccharides since they contain one sugar molecule or two molecules linked together. Complex carbs are polysaccharides since they contain more than two sugar molecules linked together. Example of a simple carbohydrate would be processed sugar, example of a complex carbohydrate would be legumes, vegetables, anything high in fiber.

Everything is digested as a simple carb no matter what it is. It is just that “healthier” carbs are digested slower than sugar. This digestion can be dependent on several things however:

1. Enzyme action in the gut or mouth
2. Fiber and fat slow digestion so coupling foods can decrease the digestion rate
3. Our perception of the sweetness of the food

The digestion rate is important because the cause of Type II diabetes is due to a constant uptake of insulin due to high blood sugar. The receptors get tired of receiving insulin and quit working, driving your blood sugar up and causing diabetes. This is why it is important to have at least 35 grams of fiber in your diet to help slow the insulin rate. The best fiber will come from vegetables. For more on your digestion and how it works click this link http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=faq&dbid=16#digestion

What is up with low carb diets?

Low carb diets became popular via the Atkins and Paleo diet. For the most part, one would eat high protein and fat and very low carbs, carbs only coming from vegetables. Will this work? Short term yes but nutrients will always out trump calories or source of calories. If you are some one who works out regularly, going low carb for a long period of time may hurt you rather than help you.

What is wrong with restricting carbs long term?
(from John Berardi at Precision Nutrition)

1. sluggish metabolism: when carb intake is low T3 cannot be converted to T4 through your liver thus slowing your thyroid function, stalling your metabolism
2. lower levels of muscle/strength building hormones: Cortisol goes up and testosterone will go down
3. higher levels of stress hormones: Cortisol, that bastard stress hormone is increased when carb intake is low
4. weight loss will stall: refer to #1. If your thyroid sucks so will your weight loss

We needs carbs

Carbohydrate intake is dependent on: your activity level, carb source, goals, and genetics. The more active you are the more carbohydrates you need. If you goal is to build muscle and thus lose fat, low carbohydrate intake is not going to get it done. The type of carb source (more on that in a minute) matters as well. Your genetics will always override everything, some people tolerate more carbs than others.

Portion Sizes

Here is a great illustration of portion sizes to keep everything in check and it is extremely easy to apply to you:

For Women

For Men


Use this as your guide to have a healthy portion of of all the macronutrients without having to count calories.

A few people do best with low carb diets

1. People with neurological disorders; epilepsy, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s
2. Very sedentary people. The less active you are the less you need carbohydrates

Use this as your guide to eat carbs

Any time meal

Post workout meal

To summarize the carb myth, it is important to realize what you are putting into your body and WHEN you are taking it in. Anything can be done in the short term and reveal results, however long term is much more important and these are tried and true strategies.

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