During Q&A after speaking engagements someone always incredulously asks, “You eat carbs?!?!” To which we respond, “Yes, whole-food carbs make up 80-85% of our calorie intake.” (the rest is protein and fat split about evenly). And the follow-up question is often, “Did you gain weight before you starting losing?” “No. We both started dropping weight right away.”
What is going on? How can we eat so much of a food type that most people shun as the devil in food form?
Let’s start with the fact that “carbs” is a SUPER broad term. It covers everything from sweet potatoes and grains to cakes and cookies. Obviously, those things should not be lumped together, but they often are. To be clear, when we say we eat “carbs” we mean we eat whole-food starches that contain carbohydrates.
On to the science.
The human body uses carbs as fuel and (interestingly) is really lousy at converting them to body fat. Carbohydrates are stored as glycogen in our liver and muscles to be burned; often as body heat. One study showed that up to two pounds of glycogen can be stored in our muscles! Additionally, the brain runs exclusively on glycogen. Your body CAN create brain fuel from sources other than carbs. BUT, I personally don’t want to force my body to do things the hard way when it come to my brain. Especially since carbs aren’t what’s making us fat anyway.
Another benefit of whole-food carbs is that they come packaged with fiber. If you catch any of our Facebook live videos you have likely heard us talk about fiber. It fills our stomachs so our stretch receptors feel full, slows down digestion so we feel fuller longer and has amazing nutrients that only the bacteria in our gut can release and use (gotta keep those gut bacteria happy and healthy!). Not to mention, fiber is good for keeping everything moving through the system.
We also get asked, “What kind of carbs do you eat?” The short answer, “We eat ALL the plant starches.” But most commonly, whole wheat bread (that Russ makes), whole wheat pasta (make sure the ingredients say “whole wheat”), all types of potatoes, all types of sweet potatoes, rice (preferably brown or at least tan), steel cut oatmeal, quinoa and beans in many forms (there are at least 101 different types of beans).
Animal protein, that’s a different story. It can be turned into body fat using only 3% of the calories ingested. It has zero fiber, slows down the movement in our GI tract and even starts to rot in there (we won’t mention the smell but you know what we are talking about). The potato gets the blame for making us fluffy but the issue is really the butter, cheese, sour cream and bacon we load it with; not to mention the slab of meat sitting next to it.
Seeing it written out like that kinda makes it obvious doesn’t it?
Just last week I had a client say, “I’d really like to know why I don’t feel hungrier.” To which I responded, “You aren't hungrier because you are eating starches which fuel your body correctly AND they have fiber which creates volume to make you feel full while taking time to process.”
So, go out and eat all the whole-food starches you want (Just don't smother them in animal products). They will make you feel full, make you healthy and help you reach and maintain your ideal body weight!
PS - We tried white sweet potatoes (which are oddly very deep burgundy on the outside) this week. SO YUMMY!
If you are ready to address how your food choices are negatively affecting your health, let’s set up a free get-to-know-you chat. Send me an email and let’s get you on track to taking control of your stress eating. Health@RnRJourney.com
Dr Robyn is a former competitive volleyball player turned psychologist with continuing education in nutrition. Russ is a former competitive bodybuilder and trainer on the Mr. Olympia Tour. They are the co-founders of Whole Food Muscle and the authors of How to Feed a Human The Whole Food Muscle Way. To work with them one on one to improve your health and fitness or to have them speak at your event or organization email them at Health@RnRJourney.com.