Bikini Ready Tips: Healthy Carbs Decoded

When I was a model, I was terrified of carbs. I'm talking even the good carbs in healthy fruit, brown rice, beans, veggies, etc. The result? I was eating way too much protein and needed a little more balance. The moral of this story is don't be scared of the word carbs. Instead, eat the good ones.

Today, Kelly LeVeque is decoding what exactly these healthy carbs are + what to avoid to get you bikini ready in no time:

There are a number of low carb, slow carb and no carb diets out there and for good reason, they work. To understand why you must understand the science of carbohydrate metabolism. Carbohydrates are metabolized (broken down or digested) into glucose, or blood sugar. Picture your piece of toast floating in your bloodstream as sugar. The brain without the help of insulin can use glucose, however, the hormone insulin, which is produced by your pancreas, must manage all the remaining glucose. Insulin is the storage hormone that allows glucose to move from the bloodstream into your cells. It’s up to insulin to keep an appropriate amount of glucose circulating in your bloodstream (the so-called normal range of blood sugar is between 70mg/ml and 120mg/ml) and deliver appropriate amounts to your cells for energy.

Imagine insulin as a cargo ship with customs paperwork that is sent out by the pancreas the minute you eat carbohydrates to pick up glucose from your bloodstream and deliver it to a specific port of call. The three ports of call for glucose are the liver cells, muscle cells, and fat cells. You remember carbo-loading right? This is exactly how athletes deliver energy to cells. Depending on the port, the pancreas might be required to submit more or less paperwork (more or less insulin) to enter. Further, when the insulin gets to a port, it signals for the cell to accept the glucose it’s transporting. Here is the kicker, if you aren’t working out and your “ports” (liver and muscles) are already full the excess glucose or carbohydrates store in the last port, as fat. Not to mention, after we eat carbohydrates and insulin is released (the “storage” hormone) it floats around in your bloodstream preventing fat burning for 6-8 hours, this is known as the insulin trap.

For this reason, there are a few rules when it comes to carbohydrates:

1. Eat whole carbohydrates (or as close to it as possible!) that are wrapped in fiber like quinoa, rice, beets, and beans. Yes, beans are mostly carbohydrates, not protein! This slows the digestion to elongate your blood sugar curve and slowly release glucose into the blood stream. Instead of juice, which mainlines itself into our blood. If you can eat completely whole foods, pick alternatives that have limited ingredients.

2. Never have more than one appropriate serving of carbohydrates per meal, too much and it must be stored as fat. This ensures our glucose is only fuel, not fat. This looks look like ½ cup rice or 1 tortilla

3. Eat carbs (and only one serving size!) with only one meal a day if you can, but with two meals at the most. As discussed, carbohydrates are broken down into glucose, which your body manages by producing insulin. Once in your bloodstream, the insulin remains there for six to eight hours, during which time you can’t burn fat. This means that if you have carbs (like pancakes, waffles, or toast) at breakfast, you’ll be unable to burn fat until the afternoon! I suggest skipping carbs at dinner so that you can burn fat until you eat breakfast the next day! If you love eating carbs at dinner, she said to skip them at breakfast by eating a Fruit Free Fab Four Smoothie or eggs.

4. Try to limit fruit because it does have a lot of sugar (specifically fructose) – a sugar that stores as fat very quickly because it can only efficiently be stored by the liver, not your muscles), but it's great in moderation! One serving a day is perfect, preferably higher in fiber like berries, apples or pears.

5. Go high fiber and review net carbohydrates. A quick way to determine what of your food will break down to sugar is to subtract fiber from carbohydrates. Fiber is fermented by your gut bacteria or passes through your body instead of spiking your blood sugar so the higher in fiber the lower in glucose, and the less blood sugar your body needs to store. If you can find gluten free low net carb alternatives, that's even better!

Here are some of my favorite high fiber, low net carb, and limited ingredient products: 

Barely Bread: great paleo bread and bagels

Siete Foods: chips and tortillas

Outer Aisle Gourmet: everyday cauliflower replacement

Jilz Gluten Free: great everyday cracker

Marys Crackers are good too!

Need more info on the other micronutrient must-haves? Check out these links from Kelly! 

Healthy Fats Decoded 

Healthy Proteins Decoded 

Actress, model, active humanitarian, & Mom! Author of 'Everyday Chic'.