The Truth about Carbohydrates
Updated: Sep 12, 2019
The Truth about Carbs.
Poor old carbs, for the last few years they have been banded around as the ‘baddie.’ With the rise of low-carb, paleo and keto diets no wonder most of us have started to fear carbohydrates. But what is the truth about carbs? Does eating them make us fat? Are they bad for us? And what is the point of them?
As a carb-loving nutritionist myself, I am going to tell you the truth about carbs and why there is no reason to fear them.
What are they?
Carbohydrates, (shortened to CHO), are made up of three molecules, Carbon, Hydrogen and Oxygen.
There are three prevalent types of carbohydrates, monosaccharides, disaccharides and polysaccharides.
- Monosaccharides (meaning single or one carb) are what are known as ‘simple carbs.’ Glucose and fructose fall under monosaccharides, which are commonly found in fruits and vegetables.
- Disaccharides (meaning two) are made up of two monosaccharides, which are maltose, sucrose and lactase. Lactase is found in milk and other dairy products.
- The final is polysaccharides, the ‘complex’ carbohydrates. These are found in fibres and starches think oats, potatoes and rice.
All you really need to know is that simple and complex carbohydrates are processed in our body in different ways. Simple carbs are processed quickly, providing us with energy more efficiently, therefore beneficial for training. Complex, take a little longer for our body to process helping with digestion, keeping us feeling full and prolonged energy.
Although carbohydrates are not essential to keep us alive, they are our main and most effective energy source. If you are looking to perform optimally in the gym then carbs play an important role in this. When carbohydrates are digested in the body glucose is produced, and this is the bodies preferred choice of energy.
Do carbohydrates make you fat?
For our body to lose fat, we need to be in an energy deficit, essentially eating less than we burn. If carbohydrates (or any other food group) are consumed in excess and take us into a calorie surplus, we are at risk of gaining fat.
Our westernised diet is commonly known to be high in cakes, biscuits, sweets and chocolate, which are all high carbohydrate and sugar foods, which a largely calorie dense. These foods are also easy to over eat purely because of how delicious they taste and how good they make us feel. (Carbohydrates release serotonin, the feel-good hormone.)
If we remove carbohydrates from our diet, which would this would immediately lower our caloric intake.
REMOVE CARBS = LOWER CALORIES = FAT LOSS
Low-carb diets do work and can be effective for weight loss however, this is only due to us unknowingly lowering how many calories we are consuming through cutting carbs. A low carb or ketogenic diet is an easy to implement as there is no need to worry about tracking, counting calories or weighing out food. However, it is not sustainable nor will it provide you with energy for optimal performance in the gym.
Carbohydrates play an important role in our diet not only for providing energy in the gym but also as glucose is the brains main source of energy. It is important to note that a fibre rich diet is beneficial for our digestive system as well as helping with satiety (keeping us feeling full.)
I suggest choosing most your carbohydrates from more natural unprocessed sources to help create a nutritious balanced diet.
So, what have we learnt?
- Carbohydrates are not essential for survival. But they are our bodies main and preferred source of energy.
- Low carb diets are low maintenance and could help with weight loss.
- Overconsumption of carbohydrates could make you gain weight, however it is not carbohydrates that are the problem, it’s the over consumption of calories.
- A diet rich in fruit, vegetables, starches and fibre is better for health rather than consuming ‘junk’ food.
- For optimal performance with our training, carbohydrates are vital.
- Dietary Fibre found in carbohydrates is extremely beneficial for digestion and satiety.
- Carbohydrates are very valuable for cognitive health, reducing cortisol which improves sleep.
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