Carbs are good.

Carbs are bad!

Carbs are necessary.

Carbs are NOT necessary!

Hmmm, a little debate seems to be brewing.

So, where do carbs fit in? That is a complicated question. Who are you and what are your goals? From there we can start to take a look at carbohydrates in a little more detail.

Are you lean and happy with your physique? Then carbs should be a part of your diet at least some of the time.

Are you overweight and looking to lean out? Then carbs might want to take a back seat most of the time.

Let’s take a step back for a minute…

Rethinking Carbs

Most traditional cultures throughout the world have used carbohydrate sources, at least seasonally, as part of their diet. We are currently in the unique position of having a choice as to how much and when we eat carbohydrates. For most of human history, there wasn’t much of a choice. You ate what the world around you provided. If you lived where you had access to carb sources, you ate those carbs. And you didn’t worry about it. You ate them when they were around because they wouldn’t always be around. Now, with worldwide import/exporting we have a constant access to food that really shouldn’t be available to us. Because of this new reality, most people nowadays have to be a little smarter about their carbohydrate intake.

First things first. Refined carbs are not good for anyone. Sweets are fun but will not lead to health. Can you indulge sometimes? Sure. However, the more metabolically derailed you are the less room you have to play around. And if you’re looking to really make a change, they should not be a part of your world while you are pursuing your goal. Sweets and carbohydrates, sugar and wheat particularly, are addicting. Yes, ADDICTING. If you don’t believe me, try going cold turkey from them and tell me how withdrawal feels. Sugar and wheat can be as or more addicting than drugs, nicotine and caffeine. Yet few people consider them to be a “problem” because they are a food. The brain doesn’t know the difference. They trigger the same reward centers and are just as powerful. But sugar and wheat are “low fat” so they got a free pass from most people. Whoops. Bottom line: Eliminate or severely limit sugar and wheat if you take your health seriously.

For those of you in a good metabolic/body place…

Enjoy carbohydrates. There are two basic approaches that are somewhat connected. The first is a seasonal approach. Eat things when they are in season. This means that you will likely be eating more fruits and vegetables during the spring and summer. Because you are probably more active during the warmer and longer days, this should jive nicely with your body’s internal regulation. More light = more activity = more carbs. During the colder, shorter fall and winter days, limit your carbs. Don’t rely upon fruits and vegetables in the winter. They should not be available to you in abundance year round. Less light = less activity = less carbs.

The second approach is to simply use carbohydrates to supply/replenish energy. If you worked out, have a serving of carbs. If you are going to have a really active day, have a serving or two. If you sat in a chair for 10 hours, stay away from them. My advice is to simply keep them in a close relationship with your activity level. Activity level = carb intake. There’s no magic formula for this, use your judgement.

For those of you trying to change your metabolism/physique…

Limit your carbs. Vegetables can be used pretty liberally but fruits and starches should be used cautiously. There will be plenty of time to eat them, just change your metabolism first. One serving here or there won’t hurt you, but regular servings have been known to slow people down considerably.

The Bare5 Bottom Line on Carbs:

1. Use carbs smartly and naturally.

2. Keep vegetables, fruits, roots/tubers at the forefront and use grains sparingly.

3. Whole foods are always best. If it occurs naturally, and comes with one ingredient, then consider it fair game if you feel you can benefit from it.

4. Earn your carbs with activity

5. Know your carb tolerance

Thanks for reading, have a great carb filled or carb restricted week!

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