Updated: Apr 14, 2020
Every heard this phrase before? I use it a lot with clients to help them understand that carbohydrates, one of our macronutrients, are not items to be villainized and shunned off the side of the plate. Instead, it is more beneficial to consciously consume them at the right time of day to maximize their potential in the body. For some, this means combining them with every meal to balance out the fat and protein. For those leaning towards the primal lifestyle, consuming carbs after workouts (when we've burned some of our bodies carbohydrate-based energy stores) is the ideal time as it allows us to refuel our bodies for optimal recovery. Since carb consumption after a workout is ideal, the time and place for carbs throughout the day varies for everyone. What does a day of consciously consuming carbs look like?
Morning - Intermittent fasting often involves the extension of the fast we have already had over our sleep period to later in the day to keep our bodies in fat-burning mode. For me, this means a big glass of water and a strong cup of black coffee to get the day going!
After the coffee has enticed my senses enough to be on the awake side of things, I like to get movement in right away. Establishing a movement practice in the morning is an easy way to develop a routine that leads to a high success rate of completion (especially if your goal is just to move, like mine; setting more rigid goals for every morning (like a 5k run) can lead to failure when time is short). So whether it's a quick stretch, swinging some kettlebells, or actually getting out for a 5k, I get it in every morning.
If the exercise is intense, such as hitting a Crossfit class first thing, I know I need to re-fuel as soon as I can. This is the time for me to consciously consume my first carbs of the day, combined in with some protein for muscle recovery. In the winter, this often looks like a baked sweet potato combined with leafy greens and a hit of protein from a shake or leftovers in the fridge. In the summer, a blender drink of greens, fruits, and a scoop of protein powder is my go-to.
If the exercise is moderate or mild, I usually extend my fast until noon or beyond since I have not depleted my carb stores much. With a cup of coffee and a fasted stomach, I am much more efficient at work and play, since I am not being slowed down by digesting carbs that I have not earned yet!
Afternoon - A big salad to get in all my micronutrients, combined with a protein source and some fats in the form of nuts, seeds, and avocados is the ideal meal for me. In the winter, opting for something warm (my base is usually bone broth-y) with root vegetables works well. Either way, this is usually my first meal of the day unless I have engaged in intensive exercise first thing in the morning.
Evening - Dinner is much of the same! Lots of vegetables, some proteins and fats. If I haven't had enough carbs with my earlier meal(s), this is the time to get them in. At this time in the day, I've earned my carbs regardless of my activity level (you do need some level of them every day!). The only item that changes is how much I include (full day hike? I'm having lots!). My favourite way to get in my carbs is root vegetables (I'm addicted to sweet potatoes/yams), but having a seed-based carb like quinoa works equally well. I limit my grain consumption to special occasions (like some delicious sushi!) to minimize the amount of inflammatory food I put into my system.
That's the way the day usually goes for me! Being conscious of when I consume carbs is one of the primal tricks to have up your sleeve to maintain a healthy weight and feel great.
Have questions, or want to work one-on one to explore conscious carb consumption and shifting to a primal lifestyle? Check out one of our coaching packages and get in touch!