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When to Eat Carbs, and Why?

People ask me about carbohydrates on a day-to-day basis. It is perhaps one of the most popular and controversial topics for years now. Some people believe carbohydrates are ‘bad’, and some think they are ‘essential’ to health. As a health professional, I believe both groups of people are right, carbohydrates can be bad and some are essential.  That’s it - simple!

I have studied for many years carbohydrates and their effects on our bodies, and I can certainly assure you that carbohydrates are essential for health, and that most people benefit from them. The challenge is what types of carbohydrates, how much to eat and when to eat them. That is the secret about carbs that most people don’t know; but if you use correctly you can achieve the body shape that you want any time.

Here are my tips and recommendations to you in case you want to learn more about carbs: 

What Type?

Simple carbs: made of one or two sugar molecules (monosaccharides and disaccharides)and are the quickest to digest and absorb by the body.

Examples:

Fruit and fruit juice

Table sugar – white, brown, raw, coconut

Syrup – corn, maple, rice, coconut, etc;

Jams

Molasses

Honey

Candy

Soft drink

Glucose

Fructose (fruit)

Lactose (dairy)

Best Time to Eat Simple Carbs?

Morning

Before and/or after exercise

Afternoon

Complex carbs: compose by three or more sugar molecules linked together, forming a chain. They are normally the starch carbohydrates and are most of the time longer and slower to digest and absorb than simple carbs

Examples:

Vegetables – potato, yam, pumpkin, parsnip, beetroot, corn

Wholegrains – Rice, barley, oats, wheat, quinoa, millet

Refined starch – corn, rice, potato

Legumes – beans, lentils, chickpeas

Refined products – white rice, pasta, bread, pastry, cakes, etc;

Best Time to Eat Complex Carbs?

Basically - at every meal. The secret is how much, and what type of complex carbs. The richer a complex carbs is in fibre the better for you. That can means a lower release of sugars into the blood stream, therefore, a lower glycemic index (low GI). The more natural and unprocessed a carbohydrate is better. Avoid refined carbs as it is normally less nutritive than unprocessed and it can affect blood sugar significantly.

How much to eat Carbs?

I normally recommend to my clients and friends to use the ‘handful method’. By closing your hands you will have an approximate idea of how much carbs you should have in a meal. I normally recommend one handful for children and ladies, and two handfuls for teens and men. That is just because of their higher energy expenditure.

When To Eat Carbs?

Here is one of the biggest questions and debate. I personally like to keep it simple and use this method:

If you exercise in the morning: eat carbs before and after training. Eat less or no carbs at night to maximize fat loss

If you exercise in the afternoon and evening: eat less carbs during the day and leave 1-2 portions to eat after exercise, to maximize muscle gain, performance and also fat loss

If you don’t exercise: eat small to moderate amounts of carbs during the day and evening. Maybe consider to have 1-2 meals without carbs to help boost fat loss if that is what you want

Conslusion

Carbohydrates are not enemies or villains of the story. They are an amazing source of nutrients and energy. We use carbs for our mental and physical performance. Without carbohydrates it is very hard to perform 100%. We are designed to have glucose running as our main fuel and carbs are glucose. So, use it. Just moderate yourself and know when, how much and what types of carbs to eat.