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Nutrition Series: Volume 2, Article 1 Not all Carbohydrates are Bad


Many of the clients I work with avoid carbohydrates when they try to lose weight. They mention that this method led to some success in the past. This is clearly the reason they go back to it as a method for weight loss. The challenge comes when I ask them that while it worked for them temporarily, why didn’t it work long term? 

When trying to make changes to your lifestyle it is common to go back to what has worked for you in the past. Relying on past success is a good starting point, but when you want to make changes to your life that will last, you may have to consider a new and sometimes more challenging approach. New approaches will make you question if it will work because you’ve never tried it before. This is why there is some resistance and a lack of adherence when I work with clients. 

I understand that it’s part of the process as a coach. I encourage my clients to ask questions, be skeptical, and have an open mind. If it doesn’t work, we will change the plan. Our gym and nutrition coaching is a lab and we use methods we’ve proven will work, but each client brings their own variable to the experiment. 

To begin to answer the question we have to understand what carbohydrates are and what they do for us. Once we do this, we can begin to understand how to effectively make changes to our nutrition that will lead to long term success and a sustainable way of eating. 

All carbohydrates we consume are digested and broken down into simple sugars called monosaccharides before being absorbed by the body. When we say all carbohydrates, we mean everything from table sugar to broccoli and every carbohydrate in between. It is important to note here that all vegetables are carbohydrates and all vegetables get broken down into simple sugars (monosaccharides) before being absorbed into the body.  

The difference between table sugar and vegetables is that the less healthy “simple” carbs (like table sugar) are digested and absorbed quickly, while healthier “complex” carbohydrates (like vegetables) are digested and absorbed much slower. 

Either way, these monosaccharides go to the liver to fill energy stores. After that, they enter the bloodstream and are sent to other cells in the body. Insulin is then released to regulate blood sugar levels in the body. The difference is the rate at which this happens. Simple carbs are broken down quickly, while complex carbs are broken down slowly. 

Carbohydrates are primarily a source of immediate energy for the body’s cells. They also cause a release of insulin which is necessary for regulating our blood sugar levels. After intense activities it may be important to include simple carbs so that blood sugar levels can be regulated quickly. For general activity and inactivity it may be more beneficial to include complex carbohydrates so that blood sugar levels are regulated at a steady rate. 

Here is an excerpt from the article “All About Carbohydrates” that further explains this process.

“When the diet consists of simple sugars and refined carbohydrates (which the body breaks down rapidly), one may notice elevations in blood triglyceride levels, bad cholesterol, and insulin resistance.

On the other hand, carbohydrates that are digested and absorbed slowly, such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, can help to control insulin response, energy levels, and body composition. Such unrefined, unprocessed, complex carbohydrate sources may reduce triglycerides and improve one’s cholesterol profile (Jenkins et al 1987). Other benefits of a lower glycemic diet include increased vitamin and mineral intake, increased fiber intake, enhanced satiety, a higher thermic effect of feeding, and blood sugar control (Ludwig & Eckel 2002; Ludwig 2000).”

If your goal is weight/fat loss and improved health, understand that what has worked best for our clients is to avoid simple carbs such as sugar, refined carbohydrates, processed foods and foods with preservatives. This does not mean that you should avoid all carbohydrates. The benefits of including more whole foods such as vegetables, fruits, and whole grains are increased energy levels, weight/fat loss, improved body composition, and improved health markers.

-Coach Dan


Please remember that everyone is different. Our goal is to help you improve the quality of your life. If you want more information or are feeling stuck, please visit our contact page and ask us. We’re happy to help!


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