Updated: Oct 13, 2022
Carbs have become a big buzzword lately, especially with the Keto diet gaining massive popularity. Although many people are giving carbs a bad rap, even to the point of completely eliminating them from their diets, carbohydrates have an important role in our body's energy levels and overall function. Balancing them in the right amounts and from the right sources is key to finding your body's optimal sweet spot for wellness-which is unique to everyone. Here are some signs that you may need to adjust the type of carbohydrates in your diet.
1. You Feel Hungry Shortly After a Meal
If you finish a meal and find yourself turning back around to the kitchen an hour later, you may have a too many carbs in your diet. Carbohydrates are the body's preferred fuel for energy because they break down the fastest. But this can also leave us feeling constantly hungry if we don't balance it with enough fiber and protein. If the majority of our meal is made of carbohydrates, we will burn it off quickly and be left wanting. One way to adjust this is to first check on what kind of carbs you are eating. The more refined, the less work your body has to do to break them down (think potato chips verses a baked potato). Choosing COMPLEX forms of carbohydrates that are lower in sugar, and higher in vitamins and fiber, to give your body more to work with and satiate you for a longer time. Good options include beans, lentils, oats, potatoes and squash and other root vegetables, whole and sprouted grains, and fruit like apples, pears and berries.
2. You Have an Afternoon Energy Crash
If your find yourself feeling like you can't get through the afternoon without a pick-me-up and reach for the coffee or the cookies, this could be a sign of a carb heavy diet. Although carbs do give us energy, again, it comes back to choosing the right kinds that will give you the lasting energy we need. Refined and processed forms of grains and starchy foods are usually the quickest, most convenient form of snacks. They give us a quick burst of energy, are easy to digest, and tend to leave us unsatisfied. The further removed they are from their original form, the less nutrients are
available for your body to use. Many of these options, like cereals, bars, chips, crackers, pasta and even dried fruit have higher sugar content than their whole grain, whole food counterparts. Continually choosing these foods in your daily diet will send your body through cycles of sugar spikes and crashes, and may even send you in to mood swings. For steady energy, opt for a combination of minimally to unrefined carbohydrates PLUS protein. By adding in protein and opting for less refined versions of carbohydrates, you are giving your body higher fiber and nutrient content, which takes longer to digest, and in turn, slow-releasing energy. This will greatly reduce that need for a pick-me-up at 3 pm. An apple with nuts or nut butter, a cup of Greek yogurt with berries, or a turkey or eggs with sprouted bread, or a baked potato with beans are a few examples.
3. You Feel Sluggish or Puffy
Carbohydrates are molecules of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. Just like the name says, they "hydrate", or hold water. When we get too many refined carbohydrates in our bodies, our bodies store them in the form of glycogen-a process that requires water, and our bodies can feel sluggish, bloated and puffy. Digestion may suffer as well. If we are not burning these carbohydrates stores off in our daily activities, then they will be stored for energy later on.
Nutritionist Steph Lowe of The Natural Nutritionist explains it well: "Glycogen is stored in your liver and muscles where it can quickly turn into glucose to provide energy when you need it. Molecules of glycogen contain water and therefore the more glycogen you store the more water you retain in the process." This is the reason many people experience initial weight loss on low-carb diets, as water weight is being shed with the loss of muscle glycogen.
That's not to say you need to cut out carbs from your diet to lose weight, as the loss would be temporary water loss and not actual fat. The better solution is to move more, and increase fiber and protein.