Over the years, carbs have been given a bad name. Within the media, we have seen articles which tell you to ‘avoid carbs’ or to ‘cut carbs to lose weight.’ However, these statements are not recommended by MotivatePT. We will go on to explain the importance of carbohydrates and why our bodies need them. Once you are clued up, we hope that this article will help you to form a better opinion on carbohydrates.
Foods that contain carbohydrates provide us with energy, which not only supports our growth but they also fuel our activity. Carbohydrate is broken down into glucose, this then enters the bloodstream. Excess glucose in the blood is then stored as glycogen either in the liver or the muscles. The glycogen which is stored in the liver is released gradually to help maintain the glucose levels within the blood. Muscle glycogen is used to provide fuel for the muscles to work. If too much carbohydrate is consumed, this will then be converted into fat and stored as adipose tissue.
- It’s important to know that carbohydrates provide 4 calories per gram.
- You should be consuming around 55-60% of your daily calories from carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates are found in a lot of foods, however, there are good carbs and bad carbs. Carbohydrates are broadly split into two types: sugars which are known as simple carbohydrates and starches which are known as complexed carbs.
Simple Carbs (Sugars)
Simple carbohydrates occur naturally in foods, for example, simple sugars are found in their natural form like milk, however, simple carbs can also be added to processed foods. For example sodas, pies, cookies, cereals and juices all contain simple carbs and these should be avoided. This is because they produce a spike in your blood sugar levels and also do not contain any nutritional value. You should only be getting 10% of your daily calories from these types of simple carbs.
Complexed Carbs (Starches)
Complexed carbs digest slower, as a result of this, they give you a sustained amount of energy which is slowly released over a longer period of time. Within complexed carbs, there are also many other food components too. These include vitamins, minerals, protein, fibre and water. This makes complexed carbohydrates the ideal way to get most of our energy from. A diet which consists of mostly complexed and natural carbohydrates can protect us against certain diseases and will help to maintain optimal health. Bread, pasta, rice, noodles, some breakfast cereals, porridge oats, crackers and starchy vegetables such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, parsnips, broccoli, yams are mainly composed of complex carbohydrates.
As previously stated, carbohydrates are an excellent source of energy, providing you are eating the correct type of carbohydrates. You can eat a bowl of chips or a salad made up of spinach, carrots, tomatoes and kidney beans. Both options contain carbohydrates, but the second side is a lot healthier as it contains whole grains and vegetables. You can also make a sandwich on white bread or you can choose to make it with 100% whole grain bread. We all know that brown bread is better for you, but why?
Complexed carbohydrates can be broken down further into two categories: refined and unrefined. Refined grains have been removed from their natural state and have had the bran and germ extracted from them. Refined grains are processed by companies to improve and prolong the shelf life of the product. However, although this may be beneficial to the supermarkets, it has a huge impact on the nutritional value of the food. Processing foods remove the fibre, vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats and oils which our bodies need.
- Bread: Many loaves of bread found in supermarkets are considered refined carbs. They are often made with bleached flours and will therefore not contain the same amount of vitamins and minerals as 100% whole wheat or whole grain bread will have.
- Rice: Once again rice is sold in both its natural state (unrefined) and refined state. Brown rice will contain its original grain whereas white rice has been stripped and doesn’t contain the same nutritional value.
- Cereals: Most cereals contain a lot of simple sugars and have been processed. Therefore, you should opt for porridge oats or whole grain cereals to ensure you are getting a good amount of nutrients.
- Pasta: This to can be brought in in either state. Whole wheat or whole grain pasta contains a lot more fibre and the B-complex vitamins rather than processed refined white pasta has.
Our bodies need carbohydrates to provide energy which is used by our brain, muscles and for other vital bodily functions. If you do not consume enough carbohydrates then your blood sugar levels can drop which will cause hypoglycemia.
Symptoms of hypoglycemia include:
- Difficulty speaking
- Feeling anxious or weak
Your body will then go into survival mode and will start to find energy from other sources which can lead to ketosis. Symptoms include:
- Mental fatigue
- Painful swelling of the joints
- Kidney stones
If you have too little carbohydrates can cause problems, eating too many carbohydrates can also have a harmful effect. Consuming a large number of refined carbohydrates can cause sugar spikes and crashes, this will increase your risk of diabetes. If you have a long-term diet which contains a lot of carbohydrates with little fat and/or protein, this may lead to the following symptoms:
- Dry skin
- Weak muscles
- Fatty food cravings
MotivatePT hopes that this article helps you to make healthier decisions on the types of carbs you are eating and to guide you on the correct daily intake of carbohydrates.