Thanks to misdirection, the #LCHF army, and certainly some misunderstanding, a common mistake made by those starting to eat a more paleo/primal way is not consuming sufficient carbohydrate (CHO). You do need a good dose of daily CHO. What’s important is that you eat the correct types of CHO – those with a low to moderate glycemic index (GI).
Carbohydrates and Insulin
Firstly, grains, breads, pastas, rice, white potatoes and cereals (starches and white carbs) are NOT the only CHOs. All veges and fruits give you CHO too! All CHO are ultimately broken down into sugar to be used for vital organ function and in working muscles. The GI is the rate at which a CHO enters the blood after consumption. When blood sugar rises, insulin – a storage hormone – is released to move the sugar from the blood to any cells that need it. If the body doesn’t need it, the excess sugar is stored as fat. That’s partly the reason for the war on carbs!
You need (good) CHO, though. And you need to keep insulin levels at bay. To do that, low to moderate GI foods are recommended. These include all veges, some fruit, and some roots and tubers. Grain-based CHO, processed foods, sodas, fruit juices, some fruits, and white potatoes form the bulk of high GI foods.
For health, performance, weight management and longevity, base the bulk of your CHO intake on low to moderate GI foods and use the high GI CHO around training times. Aim to consume about 40% of your daily caloric intake from CHO. Those include all veges, some fruits, roots and tubers, and little dairy. Fat and protein should each account for about 30% of your daily caloric intake, and to help with insulin control, satiety and energy levels, you should consume a fat and protein every time you eat a CHO.
Why do you need CHO?
- Your brain needs it to function properly.
- Your muscles need it to fuel and recover from high intensity exercise.
- It comes with fibre – the stuff needed to break down all that protein you’re eating. Insufficient fibre = constipation and a general unhealthy gut.
- Veges and fruit are primarily where you get your micronutrients (minerals and vitamins) from.
- If you go too low/no CHO for too long your body goes into survival mode thinking that you’re starving. When that happens, your body actually holds on to fat as a survival mechanism. That means, no body fat loss and you end up being skinny fat!
In short, the right amounts of the right types of CHO keep you awesome. So eat your (good) carbs!