The truth about carbohydrates: fattening foods or power foods?

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What are carbohydrates, and why do you need them in your diet?


Three carb truths that seem contradictory:


  1. You don’t need to eat carbs to survive.
  2. Without carbohydrates in your blood, you would die.
  3. Your body just likes it. As simple as possible.


In a few minutes, you will know and understand the solution. Maybe you even have an idea what could be the reason.


Why should you know about carbs

Why should you know about carbs?

Carbohydrates are not just carbohydrates. And timing is not the same as timing. It’s like protein:



Eat the wrong carbs at the wrong time, and you’ll get fat. Eat the right carbohydrates at the right time – and you build muscle faster and lose fat faster.


By the end of this article, you’ll be able to make a conscious decision about which carbs to eat and when to get the most out of them.


Carbohydrates have gotten a bad rap in recent years, not least because of the trend toward “low carb” – i.e., low-carbohydrate or even “carbohydrate-free” nutrition.




Yes, it’s true. The wrong carbs at the wrong time can be a curse. But it is also true that the right carbohydrates at the right time are a blessing.


Read also: Lentils vs Quinoa nutrition comparison


What are carbohydrates

What are carbohydrates?

By carbohydrates, we mean what is broken down by the body into small sugar molecules (glucose), travels from the intestine into the blood, and increases blood sugar there. 


Your pancreas reacts to this increased blood sugar level and produces the hormone insulin.


Insulin again lowers the blood sugar level by telling our cells: “Here, take the sugar from the blood and use it to produce energy!”


Carbohydrates come in different compositions:



Simple carbohydrates are metabolized very quickly by your body and turned into energy. These include sugar, potato starch, and flour, one of which is almost always present in finished products.


The crux: If carbohydrates are absorbed into the cells via the blood and made available there as energy – and this energy is not used – then your body first fills up the (limited!) energy stores in the muscles and liver. 


When these are full, your body converts the excess energy into fat.


The fat stores are the only depot in your body that can store almost unlimited energy.


Put simply. It is like this:


Sugar and white flour are quickly converted into usable energy. If your body doesn’t use them immediately, you’ll get fatter.


Did you know that even meat, milk, dairy products, vegetables, and fruit contain carbohydrates?


How does your body use carbs as an energy source?

How does your body use carbs as an energy source?

Blood sugar (glucose) is the energy source your body can tap into most easily and with the least effort. If there weren’t always some glucose available in the blood, you would die – because your brain needs glucose as an energy source.


Your bloodstream cannot “store” enough glucose to last three or more hours between meals. This amount is not enough for hard strength training.


When blood sugar levels drop, your body turns to the next best energy source: carbohydrates, which it has stored in your muscles and liver in the form of glycogen.


He will also never empty these energy stores – called glycogen stores – because he controls them very carefully. Only when the glycogen stores are depleted does the third energy tank come into play: the fat cells.


Finally, your muscle protein is metabolized.


This last step means muscle loss – you want to avoid that.


To the point: To generate energy, your body taps into its energy stores (simplified) in the following order:


  1. Blood Sugar
  2. Glycogen Stores
  3. Fat Cells
  4. Muscle Protein


You can train your body to become a fat-burning machine in two ways :


  • Either you become an excellent endurance athlete and train your body to access the fat as an energy source and only give up the valuable glycogen later.
  • Or you feed your body fewer carbohydrates, forcing it to access its fat stores more.


In coaching, I often have clients whose first goal is “fat loss” and a defined body. Giving you a marathon training plan would work, though. But it would be like shooting at sparrows with a cannon. In this case, the laser-focused solution is the second option: It is much easier and faster to implement.


Getting back to the hormone insulin, it plays one of the main roles in the carbohydrate drama.


insulin play in carbohydrate metabolism

What role does insulin play in carbohydrate metabolism?

If you feed your body fewer carbohydrates, it produces less insulin. And less insulin means less fat storage.


Insulin is the air traffic controller in your body. It regulates the traffic in your bloodstream.


His top priority is that your blood always remains transportable. When nutrients arrive in your blood after a meal, insulin ensures that they quickly disappear there, thus creating space for replenishment.


Insulin can store these nutrients in three stores:


  •       Your muscle cells. Where you store proteins and carbohydrates.
  •       Your liver. Where glycogen is stored when your muscles don’t need it.
  •       Your fat cells. When the muscles and liver stores are full, the rest of the energy is stored here.


Whenever you eat carbohydrates, insulin is released. Although the insulin level also rises when you eat protein and fat, not nearly as much!


Don’t get me wrong: Insulin is not the bad boy in our metabolism game – it’s all about timing.


carbohydrates help you in training

How do carbohydrates help you in training?

You need insulin to move glucose and protein from your blood into your muscles. And this is especially the case after a hard training session because that’s where the nutrients are needed for regeneration and muscle building.


Large muscles store more glycogen and protein than small muscles.


That’s one of the reasons why strength training helps you stay lean: more muscle can absorb more nutrients, leaving less energy for your fat cells.


In addition, training makes your muscles more sensitive to insulin – as if they were putting up a big “welcome sign” for your metabolism.


when to eat carbs

Perfect timing: when to eat carbs

The amount of insulin your body produces increases with two factors:



There are two times of the day when you can optimally get carbohydrates and protein into your muscles:


  1. At breakfast, the first meal of the day.
  2. Immediately after your workout.


At these times, your muscle tissue is craving carbohydrates. Especially if you want to build muscle, you should use these two-time windows to use food and insulin optimally.


At other times of the day, insulin does more harm than good: That’s when it prefers to push the nutrients into your fat cells – most of us don’t need that.


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avoid getting fat

This is how you avoid getting fat from carbs.

Insulin is a storage hormone. And as long as insulin is clocked in for work, it won’t let anything out of the stores. If you tend to store fat in your core, you can safely assume that your body produces too much insulin.


With the right strategy, your body can access the energy when needed. Avoiding the wrong carbs at the wrong times is a good idea.


Fast carbohydrates like bananas and raisins are a good example. As long as you eat them as the first meal after your workout, you’ll be fine! During this hour, you want to get carbohydrates and proteins into your bloodstream as quickly as possible for two reasons:


  • Nutrients that are digested quickly trigger higher – and faster – insulin release in your body than “slow” nutrients.
  • Since your muscles are most sensitive to insulin during this period, they absorb these proteins and carbohydrates very well.


At all other times, you should only eat carbohydrates that are digested very slowly — especially those high in fiber like vegetables and legumes.


Because complex carbohydrates only enter the blood slowly, your body produces significantly less insulin. 


The lower the insulin level, the fewer nutrients your blood draws into the three energy stores.


Gradually, some will end up in your muscles, some in your liver, and only a few in your fat cells.


The easiest way to slow down your digestion, and thereby decrease insulin production, is to include fat and protein in every meal with carbohydrates. Fat and protein are digested more slowly and keep you full for longer.


There is only one exception: the meal directly after training when you want to speed up digestion.


Enough theory!


Practical: What are good carbohydrate sources?


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“Photoshoot Preparation Diet Plan”

Forces Your Body to Burn Body Fat as Quickly as Physically Possible


best sources of carbohydrates

What are the best sources of carbohydrates?

Vegetables, fruits, and legumes are ideal sources of carbohydrates. Starchy and grain products – i.e., bread, cereal flakes, pasta, rice, and potatoes – should be reduced to a minimum. They provide a lot of energy for the amount of beneficial nutrients they bring with them.


Vegetables provide you with the best carbohydrates, namely:


  •       Fiber: It slows down the digestion of food in your body and keeps you fuller for longer.
  •       Antioxidants: They fight disease-causing chemicals in your body called “free radicals.”
  •       Anti-Carcinogens: They help you avoid cancer.
  •       Enzymes: They help your body to convert the protein from your food.


The fruit has the same benefits but provides significantly more energy (largely in the form of carbohydrates) and is digested faster.


So the amount of fruit you enjoy depends heavily on your goals. In almost all cases, you can eat as many vegetables as you like.


Power food or fattening food

The truth about carbohydrates – Conclusion

“What are carbohydrates, their function in my body, and how can I use carbohydrates to get the most out of my training and achieve my goal?”


I hope to have answered at least a large part of these questions today. Perhaps you, like me, realize while writing that the topic of carbohydrates is pervasive for a single blog article.


The focus today is, therefore, on understanding. I briefly touched on the application with suitable foods at the very end. 


This is where I will start again in the future and give you specific nutritional recommendations concerning carbohydrates: In the continuation of this article, you will find a carbohydrate table and precise tips on how many carbohydrates you need to lose weight.


And to revisit the question from the top: what are carbohydrates? Power food or fattening food?


In a word: both!


Timing matters, as does the type of carbs.


Detailed Carbohydrates Article Series:
Part one: “Do evening carbs make you fat?”
Part two:  The truth about carbohydrates  (this article)
Part three: Carbohydrate table: Which foods help you lose weight?
Part four: No carb instead of low carb?



Lose 6 Months of Flab in Only 14 Days… 

“Photoshoot Preparation Diet Plan”

Forces Your Body to Burn Body Fat as Quickly as Physically Possible