Low carb, no carb, it's enough to make us go crazy. Carbohydrates have become the enemy of many "healthy" eaters in the recent years, but we say it's time to bring them back. And we're not the only ones.
"We need carbohydrates!" exclaims personal trainer Kate Pearson, coach at Inside Out Fitness and Nutrition Coaching in Glasgow. "They are the main source of energy for our body. Complex carbohydrates are also often a great source of fiber, and a diet high in fiber helps prevent various diseases as well as keeping us feeling fuller for longer."
"Low carbohydrate diets have become popular in recent years and, whilst it's true that many of us in the country could benefit from eating less carbohydrates, it's generally not recommended to cut any of these food groups out entirely."
Much to our eternal disappointment, this isn't permission to eat pizza. Kate does admit that not all carbohydrates are created equal, and a diet high in simple carbs from refined, processed foods has been linked to obesity, diabetes, heart problems, stroke, and some cancers, to name a few.
But if you're reaching for the right ones, think brown rice or bread, vitamin-rich sweet potatoes, or nutritious grains like quinoa and barley, carbs are an essential part of a balanced diet, and you body will thank you for eating them.
So, how can you tell if you're not getting enough carbs??
You're always tired--We need carbs for energy, remove them and our body has to work harder to convert energy from fats and protein. You might wake up feeling sluggish and this won't improve throughout the day, nor will it improve with a good night's sleep.
You're not losing weight--Low carb diets will probably help you drop some pounds long-term, but Kate warns that most of that weight is water. Your liver will then try to make up for the sudden loss of sugar by producing it itself, and when blood sugar levels rise, the pancreas secretes insulin, your fat-storing hormone, hence the plateau in the numbers on your scale.
You keep getting headaches--Keep reaching for the Nurofen? It could be because eating too few carbs causes your blood sugar levels to drop and this can cause headaches-a nasty side effect to a super low-carb diet, although, if your headaches are ongoing and the pain doesn't lessen when you do pick up some pasta, you should consult with your doctor.
You're concentration is suffering--Some small s;tudies have shown that low carbohydrate diets can affect you memory and make it harder to concentrate, Kate reports, so if you find your attention wandering at your desk, it might not just be that snoozeworthy report that's messing with your focus.
You're struggling with your workouts--This is especially noticeable if you're training hard, doing cardio or high intensity work, Kate adds. When your body doesn't have enough carbs it can quickly use, you won't be able to train as hard and your fitness will suffer. Some elite athletes, particularly endurance athletes, will occasionally do low card diets to complement their training, but most of our workout schedules do no look like theirs.
You're constantly cold--Chilly hands and feet can be a sign of a problem with your thyroid, which is another risk factor of cutting your carbs too sharply. This is only usually a serious issue if you've taken your low-carb diet to the extreme, but it's something people following plans like Atkins or Paleo sometimes complain of, so worth monitoring just in case.
You're totally hangry--Finally science proves what we all already know. Hangry is a real, legit thing. Restricting your carb intake does make you angry and irritable, because carbohydrates are essential for the production of your happy hormone serotonin, so reintroducing complex carbs is one of the simplest things you can do to rebalance your mood.
Your breath is bad--Bad breath is an unfortunate side effect of using fat as a primary fuel source. Want to test if yours is rank? Lick your wrist, wait five seconds, and then give it a sniff-that's what people are smelling when you speak. Upping your carb intake is one obvious way to freshen up, although you can also prevent bad breath by drinking more water.
You're constipated--Know what carbs are a great source of? Fiber. And guess what you need fiber for? Pooping. Restricting your carbohydrate sources often means a reduction in the amount of fiver you're consuming and that sadly causes constipation. This can be prevented by eating a varied diet of vegetables, fruits and whole grains.