Increase your carbs! No! Decrease your carbs!
High carb diet, or low carb diet?
What is ketosis?
What do you mean when you say “carbs”? Should I eat more pasta?
Are any of these question familiar to you? This list includes some of the most common diet related questions I am asked. Carbohydrates are one of the most misunderstood macronutrient groups. The confusion ends here!
First off, when a health professional, such as your favorite Chiropractor, personal trainer, or nutritionist tells you to increase or decrease your carbohydrate intake they are most likely (hopefully!) not referring to refined grains. Throw away your bagels, pasta, cereal, and crackers! Go ahead... you can do it!
When I think of carbohydrates, I like to place them into three different categories which help me to decide how worthy they are of me putting into my body: fruits and veggies, starches and grains. Though, there are exceptions to these categories I would like to challenge you to begin thinking this way, and eliminating other carbohydrate foods that do not fit in these three categories.
I also recommend trying to incorporate carbohydrates as a minimum of 20% of your diet. For athletes, you could increase your percent intake to even 40%-50%. Pay attention to your energy, endurance and strength gains, as well as digestion comfort and function. These are great indicators of whether increasing of decreasing your carb intake is beneficial.
Research has shown that a high-carbohydrate diet will show decreased levels of cortisol, which will decrease insulin resistance, and cardiovascular disease. This in turn will give you benefits such as normal stress responses, proper sleep-wake cycles, and decreased fat storage.
Things to consider when eating carbs: While colorful and green leafy vegetables will offer carbohydrates, their grams of carbohydrate per serving can be very low. Fruits offer the second highest value grams of carbs per serving, and starchy veggies and grains offer the most. Check out this link for a great resource of the best carbohydrate sources.
You will notice that some of the carbs on the list are not “Paleo”, but they are all gluten free. Also, many of those listed can double up as prebiotics. Most other veggies such as leafy greens are a better used as a fiber, vitamin and mineral source.
I would like to point out that there are situations where a low-carb diet, or ketosis (see below) is beenficial for some people such as treating Type 2 diabetes, people suffering from neurologic conditions, etc. There are also some people, who in general do well on low carb diets. This goes along with the notion that “one size does not fit all” for diet.
Quick lesson on ketosis:
According to Dr. Michael R. Eades article on ketosis and metabolism our body handles a carb restricted diet and starvation in the same manner because in both situations the body is not receiving glucose, which is essential for almost all processes in our body to function.
When we are low in glucose supply, the body will selectively supply certain organs like the brain, and tissues such as red blood cells, and kidney cells with what glucose is still available. Dr. Eades puts it simply that when we are in a state of starvation “you’ve got to be alert, quick on your feet, and not focused on how hungry you are,” which is why the body is selective on glucose distribution.
So, where does glucose come from if we are not ingesting it? The primary source is unfortunately muscle. The body takes the proteins from muscle tissue, breaks them down into amino acids, which are converted to glucose in the liver. A secondary source is fat, but it is not as efficient as protein in supplying glucose.
Luckily, our bodies are amazing adaptors, and in the conversion process of proteins to glucose, ketones are formed as a by-product. Thankfully, ketones can replace a fair amount of glucose needed by the brain and other tissues, and eventually the body will adapt to requiring ketones rather than glucose. When more ketones are being formed, less protein is needed for sugar conversion, thus sparing muscle breakdown!
Want more? If you are not starving, hopefully you are eating protein, which the body can also use for ketone synthesis, rather than breaking down your muscles.
BUT! There is a caveat to this! When you are not eating carbs, you are not ingesting beneficial fibers or prebiotics! A ketotic state is something to test out with yourself. See how you feel in a ketotic state, and how your digestion handles it. Some people feel and perform great, and others end up with digestive issues and energy crashes.
Posted by: Vanessa Nordin, DC for Positive Motion, CSV Health/Lifestyle Coach