Carbs are your friend.

Healthy Diets & Carbs

By Barrett White

High-carb, low-carb, no-carb? What does your body need and why?

Fad diets are hard to stick to, and for that reason they often don’t work. For you to hit your goals – whether your goals are aesthetic or for better health – you’ll want to understand how nutrition works in your body, because you can’t keep up with that fad forever. Sean Barrett, Director of Nutrition and Exercise Services at Legacy, weighed in.

“Without going into too much biochemistry, we think of energy as a molecule called ‘ATP,’” Barrett explains. “We have three energy cycles that produce it and our body uses them in this order:”

ATP-PC System: This is stored energy in the muscles and it is used up quickly, within about 10-15 seconds of physical activity.

Lactic Acid System: Your body uses this energy system when the ATP-PC is used up. Your body will rely on this system from about a minute into physical activity up to about 15-30 minutes.

Aerobic System: This third system kicks in after about 15-30 minutes of physical activity, depending how fit you are. This system produces ATP and provides the energy that your body releases from burning fat and glucose – AKA carbs – during low-impact cardio activity.

If you stop eating carbs, your body will still need them for energy, but without them it will start breaking down muscle and fat to get the energy it needs. Remember: You need carbs for glucose for energy to produce ATP. Producing energy without carbs is not very efficient for your body, and fatigue is common.

“Carbs add variety to our meals and provide numerous vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber, and help us to stay hydrated,” Barrett continues. “Carbs assist with recovery after exercise, aid to replenish energy lost through exercise, and aid in muscle recovery by restoring glycogen. Dietary fiber plays an important role not just with overall health, but also colon health.”

Additionally, Barrett says, prebiotics (plant fibers) are essential to a healthy gut microbiome, allowing the good bacteria to grow. Examples of carbs containing prebiotics include oats, honey, apples, bananas, wheat, barley, rye, beans, peas, onion, tomatoes, and asparagus.

In addition to tasting good, carbs are an essential nutrient. Remember, your brain needs fuel all the time.


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