By Alex Concepcion, RD
After undergoing weight-loss surgery or other bariatric procedures, I always advise my clients to prioritize protein over carbohydrates in order to maintain muscle mass. Since your stomach holds less than before, your new high-protein diet will require you to reduce the number of carbohydrates you eat.
While some clients find measuring carbs confusing, it doesn’t have to be. Here is the information you need concerning total carbs and net carbs.
It boils down to simple carbs vs. complex carbs
Your body converts carbohydrates into glucose to give you energy. If you consume more carbs than necessary, the excess will be converted and stored as fat.
There are two types of carbohydrates: simple and complex. Simple carbs include sugars and processed grains, while complex carbs include starches and fibers. Learning the difference between these types of carbs is essential for the ongoing success of your weight-loss journey. In a nutshell, healthy carbs are whole foods, and unhealthy carbs have an ingredient list on the package.
Simple carbs — also called refined or processed carbs — are everywhere you look. The refining process strips these carbs of almost all fiber and vitamins. Some common sources of these sugars and processed grains are pasta, white rice, white bread, pastries, candy, soft drinks, and breakfast cereals.
On the other hand, complex carbs such as most fruits, vegetables (especially root vegetables), beans, and whole grains are fantastic sources of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. These carbohydrates should continue to be a part of your daily diet even though you are prioritizing protein.
Why is fiber so important?
While complex carbohydrates are high in fiber, simple carbohydrates are not. Your body has a difficult time breaking fiber down. Slower digestion prevents blood sugar spikes. Conversely, rapid digestion of carbs leads to sugar entering the bloodstream all at once.
Glucose spikes signal the pancreas to release insulin, which unlocks the cells to take in glucose from your blood and is used for immediate energy, as well as deliver them to your liver and muscle cells for short term storage. Excess glucose is converted into fat. For this reason, the amount of fiber in the carbs you eat plays a significant role in glucose control. .
What are net carbs?
Calculating how many net carbs are in a particular portion of food involves subtracting the grams of fiber and sugar alcohols from the total grams of carbohydrates. Fibers and sugar alcohols do not affect your blood sugar level as much as other carbs, so many people feel they should not be counted in your daily intake.
For example, according to Medical News Today, half an avocado amounts to 8.5 grams of carbs, but those carbs include a lot of fiber. In fact, half an avocado provides 6.7 grams of fiber, which meets 24% of your daily requirement. If you subtract the grams of fiber from the total grams of carbohydrates, you find that half an avocado only contains 1.8 grams of net carbs.
Should bariatric patients count Net Carbs?
Tracking net carbs has become trendy, but getting an exact amount is trickier than most think. Furthermore, not everyone agrees on the best formula to use. There are many types of fiber and sugar alcohols, and a precise measure of net carbs depends on which of these are in the food you’re eating.
Neither the Food and Drug Administration nor the American Diabetes Association recognizes the formula for counting net carbs. When people with diabetes measure insulin doses, they do it based on total carbohydrates—not net carbs.
Even though tracking net carbs is not essential, an understanding of the formula can be beneficial in several ways. First, it educates people on the difference between simple and complex carbohydrates. It also raises awareness of the advantages of high-fiber foods. The USDA reports that Americans consume around 15 grams of fiber each day,the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends consuming 25-35 grams of total fiber per day, with 10-15 grams from soluble fiber.
At its core, however, counting net carbs is misleading. Packaging often highlights net carbs to allow people to justify eating more carbohydrates while feeling they are on a low-carb diet. It is important to emphasize that eating carbohydrates is not unhealthy, but eating an excessive amount of carbohydrates certainly can be. Your diet prioritizes protein over carbs to maintain long-term weight loss and supply you with necessary nutrition each day.
Don’t over-complicate things when it comes to carbohydrates. First, ensure you consume at least 60 grams of protein each day. Beyond that, know the difference between simple and complex carbs, and eliminate as many simple carbs as possible.For more information about bariatric procedures or the dietary guidelines that will become part of your healthier, post-surgery lifestyle, contact Blossom Bariatrics. Feel free to reach out to our expert staff with your questions today.