Before I even begin, let me just start by saying that not all carbohydrates are evil. In fact, we actually need some carbohydrates in our diet. However, there are two types of carbs: complex and simple – and they are not created equal. Today, I’m going to focus on simple carbohydrates and why they may be hindering your weight loss.
Our body burns two sources of energy: fat and carbohydrates. When there are more carbohydrates in the body than is needed for energy, not only does the body not get around to burning stored fat, but the excess carbs are stored as more fat. So, when carbs are low enough, the body starts to burn fat for energy, which = weight loss.
As I mentioned, I want to focus strictly on simple carbohydrates today. I like to think of simple carbohydrates (sometimes referred to as refined carbohydrates) as white carbohydrates. White flour, white pasta, white rice, white bread – these are all simple carbs. One thing these all have in common is that they’re processed. Processed carbs = nutrient deficient.
When we consume simple carbohydrates, our body turns these carbs into sugar, which means our blood sugar spikes quickly. In turn, our body releases a hormone called insulin in an effort to lower the level of blood sugar. At this point, there are several things that happen that could be preventing your weight loss…
- Insulin signals our body to burn the carbohydrates, rather than fat (i.e. fat is being stored and accumulates more fat).
- Any insulin not needed to reduce blood sugars is stored as fat.
- Following the rush of insulin, blood sugar then plummets, which causes hunger and cravings for the quickest and easiest form of energy (i.e. more carbohydrates and sugar!).
- The cycle repeats. Then, when insulin remains elevated for long periods of time, we can become insulin resistant and never get around to burning stored fat.
So, what can you do to minimize these carb-induced blood sugar spikes? Here are 3 tips:
- Switch to complex carbohydrates. For example, eat brown rice instead of white rice, whole grain bread instead of white bread, or whole wheat pasta instead of white pasta.
- Spread your carb intake throughout the day rather than eating one gigantic carb-heavy meal to avoid a blood sugar spike.
- If you do eat simple carbohydrates (despite my Tip #1!), combine it with a healthy fat – this will help slow the release of blood sugars.
I want to end by saying that finding the point at which the body burns fat is highly individualistic. Everyone’s tolerance for carbs (before turning them into fat) varies greatly. However, I do think we could all benefit from reducing the amount of simple carbohydrates in our diets!
Where can you make swaps for nutrient-dense carbs vs. simple carbs?