Carbs – the lowdown

Understanding carbohydrates may be one of the toughest things to do these days. One day the media tells you carbs are bad, the other day they are praised. It becomes really hard to decipher what information is right and wrong. Throw in the obstacles of driving a truck and limited food choices and it seems impossible to choose foods wisely.

Carbohydrate is the technical term for all types of sugars. There are single-molecule and double-molecule sugars, fructose and sucrose, respectively, and then those that are strung together to form complex carbs like starch and fiber. Carbohydrates provide 4 calories per gram of energy, and are the preferred fuel source for the body when performing high intensity activity. Carbs are important for fueling performance but they are not “essential.” That means that you won’t run into serious health risks if you don’t take in a certain amount over time.

Normally carbs are found in starchy and sweet foods including healthy choices such as whole grains, fruit and some dairy products. Carbohydrates that come from refined grains and flours, sweets and desserts and sweetened beverages are empty calories that don’t contribute very much nutrition to an overall diet. The glycemic index of carbohydrates indicates how fast the carbohydrates from foods enter the bloodstream. High glycemic index foods, things like white bread and high sugar desserts enter the bloodstream really quickly where lower glycemic carbs like high fiber fruit and most whole grains enter the bloodstream more slowly and steadily. Carbs are not necessarily good or bad but consumption at certain times can produce unfavorable consequences. Eating too many high glycemic carbs, especially all at once, can cause a surge in insulin secretion and promote fat gain. Most people struggle with controlling their portions of these foods because these types of foods don’t do a good job at delivering an “I’m full” response the body needs to control appetite. These types of carbs can be very addicting and lead to intense cravings when consumption is decreased. Long-term over consumption of high-glycemic carbohydrates usually leads to weight gain and insulin resistance. Left untreated, insulin resistance is the precursor for diabetes.

So how does carbohydrate consumption fit into the lifestyle of an over the road truck driver? Due to the sedentary nature of the profession, reducing carbohydrate consumption can be very effective in promoting weight loss or for maintaining a healthy weight. Here are a few basic recommendations to cut down the amount of carbs in the diet:

  1. Stop drinking your beverages that contain carbohydrates!! This includes soda, juice, energy drinks, sports drinks, and non-black coffee. Drink water instead.
  2. Stop eating fried, high carbohydrate side items such as French fries. Choose a side salad instead.
  3. Decrease bread consumption by eating only half or none of the bread/bun.
  4. Trade your chips for nuts or seeds
  5. Cut back on sweets and desserts.

Start with a few changes at a time for best success. You can add more changes as the current changes become habit. Small changes can yield big results over time.