102717 What is a smart carb?



at the beginning of every 4:00, Run 500m. With the remainder of 4:00 AMRAP double unders.  Score is total double unders.


It is really en vogue right now to demonize carbohydrate. It came from the realization that a lot of preventable health problems and many chronic diseases are a result of our overconsumption of carbohydrates. So yah, obesity and diabetes are largely the result of excess carb. But let’s be honest, we aren’t fat because we’ve been eating too much brown rice, blueberries, quinoa, and pinto beans... It’s time that we realize that it’s a little unfair to equate fruit, potatoes, beans, and yes even whole grains in the same classification as bagels, cinnamon rolls, pasta, cookies and soda. Like the history is showing that High Fructose corn syrup and the low-fat dietary guidelines caused the obesity/diabetes epidemic, so rather than being like, “yah alright, maybe we should just not drink soda or process the crap out of everything,” we thought eating a pack of bacon, a cube of butter, and a jar of almond butter every week would solve  our problems.

It’s easy to get carried away in the low carb blogosphere and some ideas get miscommunicated and blown out of proportion. 

True- once muscle and liver glycogen stores are full, excess carb is stored as fat. BUT the notion that follows is false- you can only burn fat as fuel after your muscle and liver glycogen are depleated. Actually since we have 3 main metabolic pathways, your fuel sources change constantly and a lot of the time during exercise, you’re burning multiple different fuel types- stored ATP, Muscle and liver Glycogen (carb), Fat+Oxygen. A lot of the time you’re using fat and carb as energy simultaneously.  

That being said, the type of training we do is largely glycolitic (using carb). I want to get more into what are helpful and healthy carbs so just follow this quick reasoning. Resistance training develops and maintains healthy muscle. Muscle burns more total calories. Fueling with carbohydrate makes you better at the gym. So if you want to use the gym to get lean and healthy, you should be eating (fill in the blank)....

So what are smart carbs? Like 90% of the time we’re talking about slow digesting, high in fiber, minimally processed, whole food carbohydrates. Fruit, gourds, starchy tubers (potatoes), and yes whole grains. That is just whole grains, not whole grain things. There’s nothing whole grain about a whole grain bagel, still a bagel. Robb Wolf and the carb fear mongers had me convinced the moment that wild rice hits your stomach, BAM skittles. Yes it gets broken down into glucose and stored as glycogen and then possibly as fat. But it also stays as wild rice for a long time. Actual whole grains take quite a long time to digest. And your insulin response to eating them is a lot less than the low carb crowd will let on. 

So why don’t you just say high fiber/low g.i. Carbs rather than smart carbs. Well because those slow carbs are awesome for slow release energy, and feeling full longer, that isn’t always the smartest carb choice. Last week, “Kelly” was on the board. I’m not always afforded the luxury of knowing when I can work out and sometimes I have to literally drop everything and sneak it in or it won’t happen. It just so happened that my afternoon plans suddenly changed and I had to do “Kelly” right away, which was also immediately after eating my Capitol city fit meal of steak, broccoli and quinoa. Not a smart carb choice if only in hindsight. It certainly hadn’t been metabolized into the glycogen I needed, actually i’m pretty  sure it just remained steak and quinoa for my entire workout. Painful. If you need a snack before working out, it can and probably should have faster digesting carb like softer and lower fiber fruits. That way it’s quickly made into the energy you’re going to use. 

Smart carb choices means you consider how they might effect your next venture. If lunch is a sandwich and a fruit cup, but you plan on sitting at your desk all afternoon, don’t expect to be very productive. Expect a sugar rush and nap time. But if you have beef, broccoli and potatoes, in about a half hour, you’ll feel like you can run through a wall! 

Chose your carbs wisely, eat them slowly and mindfully most of the time and you’ll reap the benefits. And actually if you’re still a little gun shy of carbs, know that you don’t need a ton of them to reap the benefits. It’s certainly possible to be sufficiently fueled while still maintaining your low-carb credentials.



Devin JonesComment