I was recently asked to write another article for The Washington Post. The editor suggested “Carbs and Exercise” as a topic and I immediately got to work. My first thought was to write about how people often exercise too much and do not eat enough carbohydrates and how this often leads to weight gain, or lack of weight loss. An extremely frustrating moment for many of my clients, and a key turning point for them on their health journey as they learn how to fuel properly.

So, off I go, happily writing away. The editor likes the piece, all is well and it was published last week.

And then what happened? HATE MAIL. People writing very mean things because I suggested they eat a carbohydrate! No joke, check out the comments. People said all sorts of mean stuff. Wow.

When I first started reading the comments, I was a bit shocked, confused, and I will admit my ego a bit bruised. But as the day went on, I felt sad. And by the time I got home, I was heartbroken. Why so sad? It hit me, that there are a solid chunk of individuals who truly believe carbohydrates are the devil. So much so, they will write hateful comments on the internet! Are you guys afraid to eat carbohydrates? Do you think carbohydrates are bad for you?

Obviously my message was not clear, so I am attempting to redeem myself.

When I write carbs I do not mean cookies, chips and candy. I mean greens, carrots, peppers, berries, brown rice, oranges or potatoes etc. Are these foods the devil? Really?

The folks were writing with such conviction, such anger. I mention in my article that you need carbohydrates for survival, which is a fundamental, biochemical fact. Many people completely disagree with me.

I agree with the whole “no sugar” craze. I believe the world should exist without processed sugars and processed grains. But, whole grains, root vegetables, fruit, non-starchy vegetables are wonderful, healthy foods. These foods should be part of your diet.

What has happened, that so many think these foods are so bad for you?

AND, many people out there, try to restrict carbohydrates and go too low, and then start to exercise too hard, and they struggle because their body needs carbohydrates to support their metabolism.

For my own emotional well-being, I need to bring the point home….

  1. You need carbohydrates to survive. Carbohydrates break down to glucose and glucose is an essential part of our metabolism. While we have alternate fuel stores and can function without carbohydrates for some time, it is not ideal, it increases stress and ultimately the body will want and need glucose to function.
  2. When I write “carbohydrates,” I am referring to whole, real, unprocessed foods. Non- starchy vegetables, fruits, whole grains, roots and tuber, legumes and dairy.
  3. A portion size of a starch, fruit or dairy is about ½ cup – that is it! So when you are incorporating them into your diet, think of them in ½ cup servings. Add a ½ cup at a time. You will see quickly that this is not a lot of food. Slowly add these foods into your diet and stop if you notice you are gaining weight or are overeating. Find your balance point of getting enough fuel to achieve the results you are looking for. So if you are start overeating on starches and fruits and notice you are gaining weight, EAT LESS! If you are noticing your energy is low, your workouts are fatigued, and your weight is stuck, take note of your current carbohydrate intake and adjust to see if fueling yourself properly will get you out of your slump.
  4. Non-starchy vegetables are carbohydrates and are extremely nutritious foods. Eat them!  All vegetables, except corn, peas, potatoes and winter squash are considered non-starchy vegetables. Hi in fiber, low in calories, full of vitamins and minerals and a wonderful source of food. Please…eat them!
  5. Exercise is a stress to the body. Fueling yourself properly will allow your metabolism to work in your favor and reap the benefits of your workouts, rather than think you are over-stressing yourself. Again, I am not saying live off cookies and chips…eat vegetables, fruits and starches and find the correct amount for you to meet your needs.

Please feel free to write me a note. I want to hear from you as this clearly seems to be a confusing topic. I want to learn how to make it more clear and support everyone in incorporating carbohydrates in some way into their life.