Myth: "Carbs Are Bad For You"

Dec 2, 2022

 by Ilana Graifer

I am sure you have heard the saying that carbs are bad for you. Or to eat a low-carb diet. However, carbs are not the enemy and you need them!

First, what are carbs? Carbohydrates are an essential macronutrient, just like protein and fat. Carbs are the main source of energy for our body. They provide us with glucose which is converted into energy. This energy is important to support normal bodily functions. They are also the main fuel for athletes!

What are the different types of carbs?

  • Simple carbs: these are broken down and absorbed into your bloodstream very quickly to provide you energy fast.
  • Complex carbs: these are made of many sugar molecules strung together in a long, complex chain. These take longer to digest than simple carbs and are full of vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
  • Refined carbs: carbs that have been processed to remove the bran and germ. These carbs have had a large majority of fiber and nutrients stripped out.

Where are carbs found?

  • Simple:
    • Candy
    • Cookies
    • Cake
    • Soda
    • Applesauce
    • Fruit/fruit juice
    • Sugar cereal
    • White bread
    • White pasta
  • Complex
    • Whole wheat bread
    • Whole grain pasta
    • Oats
    • Whole grain cereal
    • Potatoes
    • Peas
    • Corn

Which type of carbs should you eat, how many, and when?

  • Aim for the DRI (value for healthy individuals) of 45-65% of total kcals
  • Choose mostly whole grains and not refined grains. Aim for half of your grains to be whole grain.
    • Examples: whole wheat bread, brown rice, oatmeal, whole-wheat pasta
  • Eat foods with lots of fiber
    • Examples: beans, berries, broccoli, avocado, whole grains, apples, leafy greens
  • Limit simple sugar carbs
  • When: eat carbs in each of your meals/snacks all throughout the day. This will help maintain normal blood glucose levels, sustain you with energy, and prevent fatigue.

Carb choices for an athlete

Did you know that carbohydrates are the main source of fuel to sustain your energy during exercise? Adequate carb intake will maintain glucose levels, maintain muscle glycogen stores, and preserve muscle loss.

  • 30-60 minutes before workout
    • Eat a small snack with at least 30-60g of carbs
    • Examples: granola bar, banana, apple, pretzels and peanut butter, fruit cup
  • 3+ hours before workout
    • Eat a meal high in carbs, moderate in protein, and low in fat
    • Examples: bagel + peanut butter + banana, breakfast sandwich + fruit, oatmeal with berries + honey + peanut butter