I love carbs. I always have. I’m in a serious relationship with them. But since I hit my 30s, I’ve found it harder and harder to work-off the bagels and pasta. I did some research on when I should really be indulging in carbs and I want to impart what I found. You can have your carbs and eat them too…you just have to eat them at certain times of the day.
Before I get into the technicalities of this, I need to define a few terms for you:
- Glucose: Sugar. Plain and simple, glucose is sugar and is a very important energy source. Our cells and organs, need glucose to function. Common sources of glucose are carbohydrates, which our broken down in our stomach and absorbed into our bloodstream.
- Glycogen: Glucose that isn’t being used by our body is stored as glycogen. When our body needs energy, glycogen will convert into glucose, thus providing energy to our body.
- Insulin: Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas that acts as a key that opens the door to our cells and allows the glucose from our blood to move into our cells to be used for energy. Or, if the body doesn’t need energy right away, insulin will help in moving this sugar into the stored form, or glycogen, for use later on. Insulin is also known as the fat storing hormone :(.
Okay, now that we have the basics down, let’s talk about when we should be eating carbohydrates.
When you eat carbohydrates, your stomach breaks down the carbs into sugar (glucose) which then enters your blood. The sugar can’t stay in your blood and needs a place to go. When sugar is in the blood, your pancreas will release insulin into the blood (unless you are diabetic). The insulin will open up your cells to allow the glucose to enter or if you don’t need immediate energy the insulin will help to store the energy as glycogen to be used later. However, our bodies can only store a certain amount of glycogen. If our glycogen stores are full, insulin will take the glucose in our blood and store it as fat throughout our body. Bummer!
When insulin levels are high, it becomes very difficult for our body to mobilize stored fat and burn it off (especially that pesky belly fat). Therefore, we want to keep our insulin levels low throughout the day and pick the best time to eat carbs.
What does all this mean? Well, if you eat your carbohydrates at times when your insulin levels are low, say goodbye to fat!
SO WHEN CAN I EAT SOME CARBS!!?? Well, when are you insulin levels low, silly.
The best time to eat some carbs.
1. Rise and shine! While you sleep your body is using glucose and glycogen to maintain normal body functions. Therefore, when you wake up your stores of glycogen are lower and when you consume an early morning carbohydrate, your body will not need as much insulin to convert the glucose to glycogen.
2. Right after a workout. During your workout, your body uses glucose and stored glycogen to give you energy. Post-workout your muscle are starving for some glucose. Eating carbohydrates at this point will require little to no insulin to convert the carbs to glycogen
3. Right before a high-intensity workout. This is a tricky one. There isn’t a need to indulge in a bagel if you plan to do a moderate cardio session. Your glycogen and fat stores will be enough to fuel you through the workout. However, if you plan to do an intense cardio workout like sprints or a spin class or a heavy lifting workout, then definitely have some easily digestible carbohydrates before. Use your judgement here and be honest with yourself.
So there you have it. You no longer have to feel guilty about eating carbs if you eat them smartly. Pass on the bread basket at dinner and save the indulgence for your breakfast! Stay tuned for an upcoming post on how to choose the right carbohydrate to aid your fitness goals!
Hooray for carbs!
Party Smart. Sweat Smarter.