Unless you’re brand new to the world of gastric sleeve—and the way we do things at Endobariatric in particular—you probably know that I recommend a protein-heavy diet for patients who’ve had the gastric sleeve procedure. So where does that leave carbohydrates? And are they really as evil as they’re usually portrayed? Read on for the facts about carbs.
Fact #1: Carbs are your friend right after being sleeved.
Let’s start with the one time when carbs are your friend: immediately after your procedure. Why? This is the period when your restriction is the greatest; swollen tissue can make it tough to take in enough calories to feel like you have any energy at all. Here’s where an increased level of carbs does your body some good. So we’ll recommend full-sugar fruit juice and liquid supplements, for example, whereas those wouldn’t be a good choice a little further down the road.
Fact #2: Carbs determine your weight loss.
While a bit simplistic, this truth is why I recommend a high-protein, low-carb, low-sugar diet to my sleeve patients. If I just told patients to “eat right and exercise,” that would be a grave disservice. In trying to provide the guidance our patients deserve, I’ve thoroughly researched different diets. There’s no doubt that high-protein, low-carb leads to the kind of weight loss our patients desire. Think about it. How many calories’ worth of potato chips or cookies could you eat in one sitting? Probably a lot. Now, how many calories’ worth of kale or chicken breast could you eat? Probably a lot less. In addition, going low-carb kickstarts a fat-burning metabolic process. Your brain, heart, kidneys, etc. need carbs to function, and when your body can’t easily find them in the food you’re eating, it’ll look for them in your stored fat.
Fact #3: Not all carbs are created equally.
This goes beyond the obvious donut vs. broccoli (yep, broccoli contains carbs). When you get serious about counting carbohydrates—more on that later in this article—you should focus on net carbs. The idea is that you can subtract certain carbs that come from fiber or sugar alcohols from the total carbs you eat in a day. Carbs that come from these sources are easily metabolized by your body and don’t spike up your blood sugar. The result is that they have very little impact on your body. So if you’re eating a bowl of lentils with 23 grams of carbs and 9 grams of fiber, your net carbs would look like this: 23g carbs – 9g fiber = 14g net carbs.
Fact #4: You’ll be shocked at the places carbs hide.
Reading food labels should be your new pastime—at least until you can pinpoint likely carb culprits easily. Some of the most dastardly sources are in foods you may be using in order to eat your healthy proteins and leafy greens. Watch out for lots of hidden carbs, usually in the form of sugar, in things like sauces, ketchup, flavored yogurt, cashews (at 9 grams per ounce, they’re the most carb-dense of any nut), protein bars, salad dressings, and jarred tomato sauce.
Fact #5: You don’t need to hit 30 grams overnight.
In an ideal world, you would only take in 30 grams of carbohydrates a day. At that number, fat practically melts off. The problem arises when people who’ve been eating hundreds of grams of carbs for years suddenly slash that number to 30. If you do that, you’ll probably want to kill someone, and no amount of weight loss is worth that! My recommendation is to slowly lower your carb intake until you’re as close to 30 as you can get without feeling homicidal. Begin at a level you can manage—say, 100 grams. When that’s going well, aim for 80. View it as a nice and easy process because the goal isn’t a short-term fix, but rather a lifestyle you can live with forever.
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