Whether it comes from the cold weather blues, holiday parties or Sunday night football, we tend to consume on average 150 to 200 more calories a day between the months of October and February then we do any other time of year.
A big way we can all mitigate this trend is through a proper understanding of our fitness frenemies — carbs.
If you need a refresher course, understand first that there are two categories — simple and complex.
Simple carbohydrates, often referred to as “bad” carbs, are made up of basic sugars that are easy to digest and provide very little nutritional value to the body. Simple carbs, generally, tend to be lower in fiber and higher in sugar. When it comes to simple carbs we tend to get a little confused on what’s a good simple carbohydrate and what’s a bad simple carbohydrate. For example, most fruits and vegetables are simple carbs just like that of cookies, cakes and pies.
What’s the difference? Our body processes these simple sugars differently. For instance, the fiber in fruits and veggies changes the way the body breaks down the sugar and slows down their digestion, making them a bit more like a complex carb and as result, providing you with a sustained source of energy and key vitamins and nutrients that you need to stay healthy. On the other hand, simple sugars like soda, candy, white rice, bread and pasta are quickly absorbed and provide a quick energy boost and then a crash. These types of simple carbs contain little to no nutritional value.
So what’s my advice on eating simple sugars? I don’t think anyone should deprive themselves of the “bad” simple sugars like candy, cookies, etc. Food is meant to be enjoyed and therefore, my suggestion is eating these simple carbs right before you workout so that you can either burn them off or use them as a source of energy during the workout. Generally, I find we tend to eat our “bad” simple carbs in the evening and therefore, I suggest flipping the script. Eat your “bad” carbs in the morning or earlier in the day when you are more active so you can burn them off.
Complex carbs, often referred to as “good” carbs, are made of sugars that are denser and take the body more time to break down. They generally have something called a lower glycemic load, which just means you will get smaller amounts of sugar released at a more consistent rate, providing a sustained source of energy instead of the boost and crush you get from simple sugars. In addition, almost all complex carbohydrates are packed with essential vitamins such as vitamins A,B,C and K, that keep us healthy and strong. Examples of complex carbs include kale, asparagus, broccoli, whole grains, beans and apples.
The more complex carbs we eat, the better we feel. I recommend having at least three large servings of complex carbs per day. It would be even better if one of those servings came as a late evening snack. Because they are so dense, complex carbs tend to keep us satiated and away from reaching for the sweets at night.