Why you need carbs to manage your weight

Carbohydrates are essential to good health but often get a bad rap for weight loss. Learn about the two types of carbs, why carbs are necessary and how carbs can help you manage your weight.

Simple vs complex carbs

There are two types of carbohydrates: simple carbs and complex carbs. Simple and complex carbs are both necessary for a healthy lifestyle and weight management.

Simple carbohydrates, in moderation, help power your workouts

Simple carbs are often found in refined sugars and give carbs a bad rap. Simple carbs are typically associated with refined sugars and soft drinks but are also found in fruit. We all know soft drinks are bad for losing weight, so does this mean fruit is bad for you too? Absolutely not. Processed foods are harmful to weight loss because they contain added sugars without additional nutrients. Unlike processed foods, fruits are an excellent source of simple carbs because they do not have added sugar.

Simple carbs are a quick energy source and are necessary to power through intense workouts. This is why athletes consume sugary sports drinks during competition to fuel their bodies. The problem with simple carbs is our bodies burn through them quickly, leaving us feeling hungry, sooner.

Many of us consume too many simple carbs. Processed and fat-free foods get their delicious flavors from added sugar. Once we burn through all those carbs, our appetites trick us into wanting more and heading back to the fridge for more empty calories.

Complex carbohydrates help reduce your appetite

Complex carbs, also known as starches, are found in vegetables, unrefined grains and legumes. Complex carbs provide vitamins, minerals and fiber that are vital to your health.

Our bodies burn complex carbs much slower than simple carbs, providing a steady energy source throughout the day. Since our bodies burn complex carbs slowly, we do not experience the hunger spike associated with simple carbs.

Fiber is also great for weight management because it leaves you feeling full longer. Fiber also helps manage blood sugar and cholesterol levels, both important factors in maintaining your health.

How carbohydrates help you lose weight

Low-carb diets claim the “trick” to losing weight is to strictly limit carbs but, if you read my blog, you know the only “trick” to managing your weight is exercise and a balanced diet. Despite their bad reputation, carbs are essential to a healthy diet and managing your weight. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that carbs compose 45 to 65 percent of your total calories.

Complex carbs provide vitamins, minerals and fiber which helps control your hunger. Fiber is also important to manage your cholesterol and blood sugar. Complex carbs should make up the majority of your carb consumption.

Processed foods are full of simple carbs and lack nutrients. Get your simple carbs from fruits and avoid sugar-added foods. This will give you energy without a raging appetite. Sports drinks are great during intense workouts, but water is a better alternative during every-day life.

Dustin Gustafson is an Independent Team Beachbody Coach.

  • So my question is what are common examples of both simple and complex carbs?

  • Hi and thank you for your question.

    Simple carbs include table sugar, corn syrup, honey, soft drinks, milk, candy, white breads and pasta made with white flour.

    Complex carbs include whole grain pasta and breads, green vegetables, sweet potatoes, beans, lentils, oatmeal and brown rice.

    I am addicted to carbs. I recommend the following 3 steps. Follow these and you WILL notice a difference:

    1. Cut soda, even the diet stuff. I'm a soda addict and it's hard, but the stuff does nothing good for your body. Since I started T25, my body doesn't even crave it anymore.

    2. Switch any breads/noodles to their whole grain variety. You won't even notice the difference in flavor. Be careful on this as marketers are tricky, and companies will often dye stuff brown to make it appear to be whole wheat. The label must say "100% whole-wheat" or "100% whole-grain."

    3. Stir-Friday! Once a week, make stir fry with brown rice, chicken and vegetables your family likes. I fry mine in peanut oil and season with a sweet ginger sauce. Limit the sauce as that is a simple carb, but load up on the rest. I hope this helps!

  • What are your thoughts on Paleo?  No Carbs or dairy at all.  Also thoughts on eating a high fat diet (healthy fats of course) comprised of foods like avocados, olive oils, nuts, seeds, etc. 

  • - A lot of paleo foods still include carbs. I know there's a lot of disagreement on starchy foods and vegetables. The typical American diet doesn't include enough vegetables, so most of our carbs from bread. I don't see an issue with paleo since you still get more complex carbs, without overindulging in simple carbs from refined sugars. I suppose it all depends on how extreme you go. As for high fat diets, there's still lots of good carbs there. An avocado, for instance, has about 12g of carbs.