Carbohydrates, or carbs, may have received a bad name with regard to weight control, but they help keep energy levels steady—when you eat the right carbohydrates, that is. There really are good carbs vs. bad carbs.
The types of carbs you chose can help you feel great during your day of massages or leave you fighting the-eyes-closing-during-scalp-work part of your day.
It is known your body needs carbs to function optimally and control satiety. The types of carbs you eat will make you feel full sooner, which means you’ll eat less.
Those same types of carbs will leave you feeling full longer (yay, fiber), so it’s a win for eating less throughout the whole day and maintaining a high energy level. That’s just brushing the surface, so let’s look deeper into carbohydrates.
Along with proteins and fats, carbohydrates are one of the three primary nutrients in foods and drinks. Your body breaks down carbohydrates into glucose. Glucose, or blood sugar, is the main energy source for your body’s cells, tissues, and organs.
Carbohydrates provide your body with energy. They are the first thing the body burns when needing energy as you go about your day. If you overeat carbs, they won’t all burn, so they are stored as fat.
By overeating carbs, not only are you storing more fat in your body, but you aren’t allowing your body to dip into your current fat stores for energy. Guess where the body gets energy from when the carb source is depleted? Yep, fat stores.
So, understanding how the body uses what you eat helps you to eat the right things. If you are trying to lose weight, the goal is to gauge the intake of carbs to allow the body to burn some already stored fat.
Next, let’s look at the types of carbs because this is key to most people’s eating habits.
We can put foods into two carbohydrate categories: simple carbs and complex carbs.
Simple carbohydrates are less nutrient-dense foods that your body burns quickly. When you eat a simple carbohydrate (candy, soda, cookies), your blood sugar spikes and then drops soon because the body burns it quickly without getting much nutrients.
This is the short-term energy increase with a crash afterward we’ve all experienced at some time. This crash isn’t welcomed when you have three massage sessions left.
Simple carbs are foods with refined sugar and flour. Usually, foods with white sugar, white flour, and white-colored pasta and tortillas, along with white bread, bagels, packaged cookies, and bakery items, will fall into the simple carb category. Generally speaking, if the food is made with flour and sugar and has little fiber, it falls into the simple carb category.
I use flour tortillas as an example of an easy way to adjust food choices. The flour tortilla has flour in its name, and it is white. Conversely, the corn tortilla is made of corn and is yellow, the color of the naturally occurring corn it is made from. So, by looking at the food label on the package, you can see one has fiber and one does not. One is made from white flour, making the other one, the corn tortilla, the better choice.
A diet high in simple carbs is undesirable because of the lack of nutrients provided to the body. We must skip the simple carbs since we aim to eat for a purpose and give our body the best energy nutrients.
And remember, those simple carbs burn faster, leaving us hungry, which may cause overeating.
Complex carbohydrates are the carbs with more substance that keep you full longer. These carbs are rich in nutrients and higher in fiber, found in foods like oatmeal, beans, and whole grains.
Fruits and vegetables, peas, beans, and legumes fall into this category.
The recommended carbohydrate intake is 45% to 65% of your daily calories. For example, if you eat 2,000 calories a day, about 900 to 1,300 calories should come from eating carbohydrates. This translates to about 225 to 325 grams of carbohydrates per day, and most of those carbs should come from healthy complex carbohydrate sources.
Let’s talk about fruit for a minute. I have people say, “But there is sugar in fruit, so it’s a simple carb, right?” Fruit does have natural sugar, but it also has fiber, so it is not on the simple carb list.
Anytime you can eat fruit over fruit juices, do so. The fruit juice has no fiber, so there is your clue as to its placement as a simple or complex carbohydrate.
Fiber is a type of carbohydrate. You will notice it on the food label listed under the boldfaced carbohydrate, on its own indented line. Its value is included in the carbohydrate number.
Fiber is highly under-consumed, yet with little attention to intake, it can improve diet quality and overall health.
The recommended daily fiber intake is 20-35 grams.
The average American eats roughly half of that.
While carbohydrates are most known for providing energy, some carbs can also help promote digestive health. The microbiome is an enormous collection of microbial organisms that live on and in your body, most within the gastrointestinal tract or the gut. Many microbes within the gut are healthy bacteria that help support immune and digestive health.
Eating fiber acts as food for the good bacteria in the gut and promotes their growth. Eating foods high in fiber, like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, can also help with regular bowel movements, minimize constipation-related issues, and may help lower cholesterol and blood sugar.
Keeping an eye on your food labels helps gauge how much fiber you are getting. That will be an excellent start to earning 20-35 grams of fiber daily in your diet.
Good Carbs vs. Bad Carbs
Knowing how the body uses carbohydrates for energy lets you make informed choices about which food you eat. You should feel the difference in your energy levels, especially with added fiber to your diet.
When you feel well, you massage well.
About the Author
Angela Lehman is a massage therapist of 25 years turned online educator, promoting fitness and nutrition for massage therapists. She runs The Fit MT. With her kinesiology degree specialized in nutrition, she trains therapists in healthy eating, exercise and body mechanics to prolong their careers.