CARBS – What are they? Why do I need em? What’s the difference between slow, low, and no no carbs?

Several member of Treetop Training and myself are on a group quest to conquer The Whole30. All for one and one for all!!! Along the pathway it seems that some of us have stumbled upon some deep wells of low energy that seem too vast to escape. Hopefully this carbohydrate tutorial will alleviate some of the energy depletion and get everyone back into fighting shape to continue to fend off the terrible sugar dragon (insert eye roll here).

Carbohydrates are macronutrients; they are one of 3 ways the body gets energy (Calories). Fat and protein are the other two ways the body obtains energy. Carbs fuel the CNS (central nervous system – brain & spinal cord) which controls most of the functions of the body and mind. They are important for brain function, mood and memory. The RDA (recommended daily amount) is based on how much the brain needs to function properly. Thankfully, my brain is small and so I don’t need as many. Heh, heh, heh. Yes, an attempt at humor. The truth is, we NEED carbs to thrive and not be as lifeless as a bump on a log.

Carbs are simple and complex, much like most humans. Think about it simpletons can be fun, but are they really as interesting or riveting as a person with a little depth? Lets look at carbs the same way! A doughnut is simply delicious, and that’s about all the good we can say about it. As an example of simple carbohydrates the doughnut is digested and absorbed quickly into the bloodstream.  Simple carbs can lead to spikes in blood sugar levels and sugar highs, not to mention that most foods composed of simple carbs are lacking in vital nutrients and therefore a total waste of calories. Examples of complex carbs are potatoes, yams, parsnips, carrots, swede/rutabaga, butternut, acorn and spaghetti squash and other starchy vegetables. These vegetables are prime sources of vitamins and minerals that the body needs, as well as excellent sources of carbohydrates. Eating complex carbs like these promote sustained energy.

Sometimes carbs get a bad rap for weight gain, but eating the right kind of carbs can actually help you lose and maintain a healthy weight. This happens because many good carbohydrates, namely the ones WITH skin, are loaded with  fiber. Fiber makes us feel full! Good carbs are also linked to better mental health because they possibly help with production of serotonin in the brain. PASS THE POTATOES PLEASE! “Carbs may help memory, too. A 2008 study at Tufts University had overweight women cut carbs entirely from their diets for one week. Then, they tested the women’s cognitive skills, visual attention and spatial memory. The women on no-carb diets did worse than overweight women on low-calorie diets that contained a healthy amount of carbohydrates.” (Livescience.com)

Not getting enough carbs is BAAAAA-D. Without carbs, we won’t feel energized, ever. Without glucose from the good carbs, the CNS can be disrupted and cause dizziness, lightheadedness, confusion, disorientation and hypoglycemia (HANGRY-NESS). Without enough carbs, the body will go after protein as its next fuel source and start chowing down on all the beautiful muscles we’ve worked so hard for.

In closing, if you are doing The Whole30, do not just assume that this is the new and improved Dr. Frankenstein, excuse me Atkins, diet. Your goal is not ketosis. Your goal is to replace simple carbohydrates with enough complex carbohydrates to fuel your brain and body. This requires work, yes, as most things worth having do. We must prepare our carbohydrate sources in advance as vending machines, fast food and cafeterias are not guaranteed to provide us plain baked sweet potatoes or plain baked butternut squash when we feel faint. Please. please, please do not look at this as a “low carb” diet. This is a balanced way of eating full of delicious and nutrient dense carbohydrates that we are made to enjoy!

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