Sometime after college I started to develop this stomach issue where every time I tried to go for a run I would get a side ache. I would end up having to walk most of my run because it was so painful. What I narrowed it down to was that I wasn't eating enough before running, especially carbohydrate-rich foods.
I am one of those lucky people with a “stomach of steel.” I could probably eat a bowl of ice cream and an apple and go on a run and feel great. But if I didn't eat enough carbs I was destined for trouble.
So, I started to experiment. I tried eating closer to when I would leave for a run. What seemed to help was when I would eat some grains right before I went on a run. I felt amazing! A few handfuls of pretzels or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich seemed to do the trick.
It got even more extreme when I was pregnant. I think I survived solely on carbs in that first trimester, even though I was getting very little exercise. Carbs were the only thing that sounded good – and that’s okay. Many women find that they can only eat simple carbohydrates in early stages of pregnancy. Thank God for prenatal vitamins!
In my second trimester I went from satisfied to starving way faster than I did before I was pregnant. I had to have some solid carbohydrates in there or else I would experience stomach cramping. It just felt so much better to eat carbs.
I say all this because I am a very carb friendly dietitian. A dietitian mentor once told me that "When you under-eat carbohydrates you crave carbohydrates. When you under-eat fat, you crave carbohydrates. When you under-eat protein, you crave carbohydrates." Why?! Because it's our body’s most preferred source of energy! Gives a whole new meaning to "I am the bread of life"…right?
Most people find, that when they listen to their bodies, they need carbs at pretty much every meal and snack throughout the day. The amount will depend on several things, including your activity level, stress, menstrual cycle, energy level, and food intolerances.
You may find that when carbohydrates are consumed throughout the day, especially when paired with sources of protein and fiber, you will stay fueled and energized. Apples and peanut butter, crackers and cheese, trail mix – these are some carb/protein/fiber mixed foods that have staying power and fuel your body and brain. You will feel satisfied and you may not feel consumed with that preoccupation of food most people feel when they go on low-carbohydrate diets.
If this feels scary to you, consider setting up a little experiment. See what happens if you eat a piece of toast before you exercise. You may notice you’re not as sluggish. See how you feel if you yogurt and pretzels before you go to class or to study. Is your focus better? Don’t feel guilty. Eat your carbohydrates and rejoice! Your body and brain need them.
* If you have a disease like diabetes, or celiac disease make sure to talk with your doctor or Registered Dietitian before making changes to your carbohydrate intake.
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Nicole resides in the East Bay Area where she works in private practice as a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. She is a new Mom and serves alongside her beloved husband in their local church. She completed both her bachelors degree and her dietetic internship at California State University, Chico, where she was also a NCAA cross country and track athlete. Through those experiences, God prompted her to help people of all shapes and sizes discover body peace and acceptance through the unconditional love of Jesus. Nicole most enjoys spending time around a table and cooking for the people she loves.