Updated: Dec 3, 2020
Nutrition Principle #4 - Carbs & Fats!
Carbs and Fats both get such a bad reputation. Depending on what new diet trend you have heard about, one of the two gets a bad reputation--or maybe in your mind they both have a bad reputation.
Carbs: Right now in the world, carbs truly get a bad reputation. There are few people in my life that talk about carbohydrates with a "they are good for you" mentality. Most conversations I hear, people are trying to cut carbs, eat "lower carb," and wrangle the carbs! While I understand this and also have my own personal "carb rules" and have figured out what works well for my body, I want to emphasize that it is good for your body to have carbohydrates--Your body needs carbs to be healthy. So, first things first: have a good relationship with carbs and know that carbs are good and they are your friend! If you have this mantra in your mind: "Carbs are bad," let's reframe that and have a good relationship with carbs!
Fats: Similarly to the "carb mindset" is the "fat mindset" too. There is the low-fat diet, and actually, there are many people now on high fat diets. How do you think about fat? Do you understand the benefit of good fats in your life? Do you think positively about fat? Some fats are good for you, and you need them!
Mindset is what I really want to get after in this carb/fat conversation. I would consider this post a success if I could help you think positively and rightly about carbs and fat. I also want you to be sober-minded and have an honest assessment of your relationship with carbs and fat, and I want you to not put either one on the "naughty" or "No-No" list. Yes, figure out "your rules" about them and your "good amounts," but think positively and have a good relationship with them. How we think affects our hormones, our relationship with food, and our overall health. So, let's think rightly and positively!
Originally, I did not intend on posting about Carbs and Fats. I always emphasize Water, Protein, and Produce! The truth is, pretty much everyone gets enough carbs and fat in their diet--we do not have to try hard to get those macronutrients--actually most people have to "try hard" and work hard to "balance" these and not overeat them. I have those words in quotes because I desire for you to learn and know these concepts so you can stop "trying" and "balancing." While carbs are carbs and fats are fats (in the short term use, body composition, and macros world), not all carbs and not all fats are the same (for our true health needs and long term health and benefit). We do need to learn about carbs and fats. SO, let's dive in to this discussion. I hope to point you to some good information about carbs and fat so you might think about them differently and correctly.
My goal from this post would be for people to have a good relationship with carbs and fats.
I desire for you to know the goodness and know the good amounts for YOUR health.
Let's think positively and rightly about them!
Why Eat Carbs:
Energy--Carbohydrates are the main source of energy!
Fiber--Fiber is so beneficial for cleaning out your digestive system and for fat loss. Most sources of fiber are carbs--you NEED the fiber! Good amounts of fiber are good for cardiovascular health and digestive health.
Hormone Health--the right amount of carbs can help regulate your hormones
Building Muscle--carbs build muscle and we want to preserve muscle since we loss it as we age.
Appetite--having a good amount of carbs can help you feel full longer
Here is a great article about carbs from Precision Nutrition--yep--I do believe their nutritional info is the best. I also really like this article from the UK when it comes to knowing why carbs are good and how they have laid out the information.
Why Eat Fats (good fats):
Brain Health--good fats help with thinking and focus and also mental health
Alleviates Depression--good fats can help with your mood and depression
Hormone Health--we need fat to regulate hormones
Arthritis--healthy fats help keeps joints lubricated
Appetite--having a good amount of fat can help you feel full longer
There is also some evidence that good fats prevent cancer, preserve memory, and are good for your eye health.
Bottom Line: Carbs and Fats are good for us and we need them.
Let's learn about how much and how to do it better!
I cannot write these amounts out for you or give you a formula. This is the most specific and personal information there is when it comes to nutrition. Yes, there is a formula for drinking water. Yes, there is a formula for protein. And, I think there is a formula for vegetables--eat as much as you can! That is why I stick to those 3 principles--they generally have formulas with some variation. Here is the truth--the macros of carbs and fat is where it gets specific to what you hear all the time, "There is no one size fits all formula" for carbs and fats. There are SO many ways (and I think most diets have good principles and work) to "balance" and eat the healthy amounts of carbs and fats. Keto, Paleo, high carb-low fat, low carb-high fat, Macros: 40-30-30, 50-25-25, 5-25-70, and you could name almost any diet/way of eating out there. ALL of those ratios and diets work for some people--that's why they are out there. There are so many good ways and right ways to eat. What is the right way FOR YOU?
You are going to have to do the work on this one and figure out your body, diet, and health! If I work with you one-on-one, it will mean talking about things you've tried before, preferences, how you feel, preferences, journaling to figure out your feelings, preferences, and responses, and PREFERENCES (have I said that?)--preferences are truly important factors in your health! It does not mean you just eat whatever you want, but you should consider your preferences.
So, do the work...here is the best article that I recommend you read and think through if you want to make changes in your nutrition. You must be honest as you read it in order to figure out the best thing for you. DO NOT chose a way because you know what your "fit friend" does. DO NOT chose a way because it is the "golden diet" in your mind. DO choose what is going to be best for you, your personality, your circumstances, your health, and for sustainability. And, as you choose, remember you can try something and if it is not right for you, you can try something else. You are not locking in on a plan for forever. You are learning!
As you read that article, there are 2 things I want you to keep in mind:
If you do want to get after nutrition, consider tracking food for a short amount of time for learning purposes. Think of these food tracking methods as "nutritional training wheels." These methods act as “external guides” that can help you eat the right amounts of food for your body at the right intervals. Do that long enough and you’ll begin to retrain your body to better regulate the hormones that tell you when you’re hungry and full. Then you can change to intuitive eating. You do not want to track your food for forever. You want to use the training wheels long enough to learn, and then get them off and ride the bike freely and enjoy!
Go after the most sustainable way of tracking. The harder ways of calorie counting and tracking macros work for some people, but those are HARD--even for a few weeks. You may be called to do the hard thing for short term to learn the long term benefit. But ONLY track calories/macros long enough for learning. I cannot emphasize this enough--I want people to learn (training wheels) and then live in freedom (enjoying the ride)! What kid wants to be riding a bike with training wheels as an adult?!?!?!
To figure out "how much" for carbs and fat, read through that article and think through and process how you want to eat. Unless you have some good, specific reasons (and there is a time for this), I recommend hand portions and then as you learn move to intuitive eating. If you use Precision Nutrition's Macro Calculator (also in the article above), they will give you a custom guide for your amounts of protein, carbs, and fat. If you use the calculator, you will receive a guide that will help you track food with your personal formula, and it will also help you tweak your formula if things are not working for you.
Assess and figure out what amounts/portions of carbs and fat are going to work for you.
Work hard to figure this out--it will help you in the long run to eat in freedom!
HOW TO DO IT BETTER?
MINDSET IS THE KEY!!!
Even if you eat low carb, have a good mindset that those carbs are good for you and work for you instead of "carbs are bad so I eat as little as possible," think..."carbs are good, and I choose this amount (figure that out) because I enjoy them in moderation and they are good." Same for fats, your body needs fat, and the right kind of fats are good. Make sure you are thinking positively ("I get to.") instead of negatively ("I can't...I must...I have to.").
For your mindset, try to not moralize food (labeling good and bad), but think more about good, better, and best choices. Moderation. "For my health I choose..." Think positively and work to have a good relationship with all foods (even the ones that have "bad" reputations). I am going to talk about how you can have a positive mindset about all food in my next post--nutritional principle #5.
Not all carbs are created equal! Not all fats are created equal!
If you use Precision Nutrition's Macro Calculator (see above section on How Much?), they will give you a custom guide for your amounts of protein, carbs, and fat. One of my favorite things about PN is that they include all foods--there is not good or bad, yes or no, allowed or not allowed list. They talk more about eat more, eat some, eat less categories. So, use that information as your list of quality carbs and quality fats and they have quality protein too! Your specific guide from the calculator will help you see the quality sources!
Keep learning about Protein, Carbs, and Fats. It is important for you to understand what foods are what and eat to fuel your body for energy and to provide your body with the macro and micro nutrients it needs.