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Carbs Are Not The Enemy

Carbs Are Not The Enemy

I recently got a call from a good friend asking my opinion on quinoa as a side dish, its nutritional value, and how to make it taste better. I asked why the sudden interest in quinoa, and he said he had just finished reading Bobbi’s book, and it got him to thinking - he has seen too many people close to him suffer with health issues as they age and he doesn’t want to be in the same boat. He then went on to say he hadn’t been eating much in the way of carbohydrates, to which I asked why? His answer was straight out of Mike Myers’ Austin Powers movie; “carbs are the enemy!”



Unfortunately, we have been ‘fed’ this misinformation for years as a tool to lose weight. Independent studies going back well before, during, and after the no-carb craze definitively conclude that carbohydrates are a very important piece of your diet. In fact, as part of your overall diet, it is suggested that calories from carbohydrates make up between 45-65%, for most healthy adults. 



The two most notable diets that promote carbohydrate reduction/elimination are the Atkins diet, and the Keto diet. The popularity of these diets in their respective times (late 1990s and mid 2010s) has gone on to produce a lot of hype around the elimination of carbs and its ‘positive benefits.’ But what is often overlooked are the negative benefits, which far outweigh the positive. With Keto specifically, the focus is on a tremendous increase in fat intake in an effort to ‘train’ the body to burn fat as the primary energy source, therefore promoting weight loss. One of the side effects is a HUGE increase in cholesterol levels, to the point where doctors are constantly urging their patients to reduce a patient’s fat intake tremendously (I have spoken with a few people that had been on a Keto diet and this has been the recurring theme).  



The human body was built to run on an efficient fuel source - glycogen. Very simply, the body gets its glucose (later converted to glycogen) from carbohydrates, uses what it needs immediately, and the rest is transported to be stored in muscles and the liver. Excess glycogen beyond what is immediately needed and what is being stored, is then turned to fat stores. This is not meant to scare you away from carbs, just to let you know the process. Without getting too deep into the weeds, the type of carbohydrates you ingest (simple vs complex, amount of fiber present in the food source, etc.) will determine just how quickly your body processes the carbs and what effect it will have on your body. 



Ultimately, just like athletic performance, carbs for everyday life and activity are important and should be monitored, as should total food intake. Proper calorie intake with an emphasis on the right ratio of healthy macronutrients will directly impact how much energy you have each day. If weight loss is your goal, overall calorie intake is a much more important number to monitor than elimination of carbohydrates. If enhancing athletic performance is your goal, adjusting carbohydrate numbers to optimize for your particular sport while also ensuring you are eating enough to support your energy output can be a game changer - it was for me! 

In short, don’t be afraid of carbohydrates. Know what to look for, educate yourself and be confident in your food choices!

Written by Michael Giudicelli - Co-Founder of Read The Ingredients, Stanford Certified Nutritionist and competitive endurance athlete. Michael is also a husband, and proud father of two young children. 
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