First of all, keep in mind that carbohydrates are not bad foods. They do have an important function for the body which is supplying energy to the brain and muscles, especially during exercise. However not all carbs are the same. There are different categories which are:
- Simple carbs – table sugar, honey, lollies, candies, cakes , pastries
- Starchy carbs – grains (rice, barley, wheat, rye), beans, potatoes, corn, peas
- Fibre-rich carbs – veggies and fruits
Simple carbs are pure sugar. What I call empty calories. Those should be consumed with caution as eating too much of them can cause weight-gain and insulin resistance (precursor of diabetes).
Most veggies are low-calorie and fibre-rich which means they can be consumed in larger amounts without breaking your caloric budget. I call them “free foods” because they are very hard to overeat.
Fruits, on the other hand, hold a little more calories than veggies because they contain more simple carbs. But that doesn’t mean that you are going to get fat on fruit. Fresh fruit (not dried or juiced) have a high fibre content which makes you feel full and slows down the digestion (that means that the sugar in them will be released very slowly in the blood stream).
Starchy carbs are usually more caloric than fruits and veggies simply because they hold more chains of carbohydrates. And while they are usually fibre-rich, cooking and other processing may break down the fibre and making those calories more readily available.
However, it doesn’t mean that you must cut them from your diet. You may consume starchy carbs in moderation, especially after exercise (because at that time the body can process them better).
The bottom line is, if you are aiming to shed a few kilos, save starchy carbs on the days you are planning to exercise and eat more veggies on the other days. The good news is that if you exercise every day, you may have starches more often?
How much should you consume?
- If you goal is weight loss, you can have one serving of starchy carbs with the first meal after your training session.
- Choose whole grains (brown rice, barley, whole wheat breads) over processed ones (white rice, white breads, cakes, pastries).
- Sweet potatoes are preferred than white potatoes.
- Have starchy carbs together as part of a meal rather than on its own (lower glycaemic load)
- To simplify, one serve is about the size of your cupped hand.