Too many of us are focused too much on our body weight. It is understandable of-course since we always think the mirror is a reflection of who we are. And sure, body weight is a good indicator of health, since excess weight and obesity is associated with many bad outcomes.
However some fat is not necessarily a bad thing! Even if you’re extremely fit, it’s not just normal to have some level of fat on your body; it’s healthy. This is because the calories we eat eventually become energy, which ultimately becomes fat. Still, like much else in life, not all fat is created equal.
Did you know that there were two types of fat? There’s subcutaneous fat, which is fat that sits just below your skin. And then there’s visceral fat, which lives in the abdomen around your internal organs. It could very well be that you are thin but still have visceral fat. So see what we can do about it.
Types of carbs
Sugars can broadly be divided into three categories, and this differentiation is made by the number of glucose molecules that are attached together.
- Sugars. They are also called simple carbohydrates because they are in the most basic form. They can be added to foods, such as the sugar in candy, desserts, processed foods, and regular soda. They also include the kinds of sugar that are found naturally in fruits, vegetables, and milk.
- Starches. They are complex carbohydrates, which are made of lots of simple sugars strung together. Your body needs to break starches down into sugars to use them for energy. Starches include bread, cereal, and pasta. They also include certain vegetables, like potatoes, peas, and corn. There though two categories within starches. There first one is amylose ( like beans, legumes) which are digested slowly and amylopectin ( past, rice, potatoes) that are absorbed rapidly and spike blood glucose a lot. Amylose is better!
- Fiber. It is also a complex carbohydrate. Your body cannot break down most fibers, so eating foods with fiber can help you feel full. Diets high in fiber may have health benefits but this a debatable topic for another post. Fiber is found in many foods that come from plants, including fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, and whole grains.
- All carbs eventually turn into sugar to be used by the body for energy.
The difference between carbs
The answer is of-course yes. There is a big difference if you eat a piece of cake or a fruit. The difference is because whole foods such as a fruit comes together with minerals and vitamins where the cake only contains the sugar. And what is sugar eventually? Energy. And the amount of energy we get from processed food is insane and is only causing chaos into our body.
However since I hope you already know that cakes are bad for you, let’s go back to the topic of carbs. Carbs from whole foods like potatoes, fruit for example. What should do with them, if they also turn into sugar?
It is correct that all turn into sugar, but since they are all whole foods they are metabolised differently. For example
- Vegetables although are primarily carbs they have low sugar levels as they have a higher amount of fiber.
- Fruit which contain fructose have also a high water content so they tend to have a lower Gycemic Load (GL) a numeric score to a food based on how drastically it makes your blood sugar rise.
- Starchy food like depending on how they are prepared will trigger enzymes to break down those bonds into glucose, which impacts our blood sugar levels. Some starches, like those found in potatoes, are higher on the glycemic index, which means they break down more easily, leading to faster uptake of glucose and a potential blood sugar spike.
Insulin restistance again!
Persistently high blood glucose levels can harm your body over time, since they require insulin to be secreted by the pancreas to lower them. If your body can’t handle correctly the sugar and inulin levels, you will develop insulin resistance which will create chaos on almost every organ in your body, and is also many serious disease.
How much carbs?
So whole food carbs can be beneficial for their vitamin and mineral content, but they might have excessive amounts of sugar. So how do we know how many carbs can we safely handle?
This depends on your goals and your status.
- 100gr or more. I consider any diet that has 100gr or more of carbs to be a high-carb diet. This is probably ok for athletes who tend to have increased energy demands. This does not mean that athletes cant perform on low-cab diets (the opposite actually), but it means that higher amounts of carbs will most likely not cause issues as they will be consumed immediately.
- 75-100gr : Adults in their forties, are insulin sensitive and exercise. This is probably the sweet spot for young adults those who don’t follow keto.
- 50-75gr : Older adults (50+) tend to be less insulin sensitive so it is best to keep it low-carb independent of the exercise levels. If you insulin-sensitive and do some sort of intermittent fasting you will see some levels of ketones!
- 20-50gr : This is for people who want to be in ketosis for lifestyle or therapeutic reasons. If you are insulin sensitive you will see ketones around 1+ mmol/dl. This is great to become fat adapted, lower inflammation, and have lots of energy.
- 0-20gr : People who have severe IR ( greater than 10), high blood sugars and pre-diabetes.
How do various grams of carbs look like?
Here are some options so you can understand how to build your meal plan.
AVOID : If you go for 50 grams for pasta this mean very little nutrition so I would avoid it
KEEP : Start with your veggies. Fill you plate with them to get all the nutrients you need. This should be your plan on most days. On some days add 1-2 fresh, seasonal fruit!
Depending on your health status, your goals and lifestyle you might need to control your carbs. Check your blood glucose levels frequently, and understand your hunger signals (if you are overeating for example). Then start adjusting by always starting with the more nutrient dense food. I think you will naturally find yourself in the range below 100grams of carbs per day which is the basis for a healthy diet.