Carbohydrates are your body’s energy resources and are essential for more than just your physical performance. There are several reasons why your body definitely needs its regular intake of carbs to face the various battles throughout your day – not just for gym-goers. It’s true that if you are a body builder, athlete or live an active lifestyle you’ll need a surplus of carbs; this comes down to your balance of the amount of energy you expend and the amount you consume. Bodybuilders looking to build mass could do with a surplus, but that’s a subject for another time.
Muscle mass isn’t always the reason for wanting to increase your carb intake, though. There are many benefits to carbs, such as stocking up your glycogen stores ahead of a day – especially when you expect to be so busy you don’t have time to graze. Because an imbalance of calories and exercise can result in weight gain, among other things, and because there are ‘bad’ components to certain foods just as there may be good nutritional value, one of your issues when increasing your carb intake can be cutting the fat (or the bad kind at least).
The bad fats tend to come hand in hand with the types of carbs you don’t want. There are good kinds and bad ‘empty’ kinds, such as refined carbs that don’t provide the proper fuel that you need. The same goes for fat. Fats deliver fat-soluble vitamins that are a great source of energy when you need it. There is also the bad type that can cause clogged arteries, heart troubles, and higher cholesterol. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2005 Dietary Guidelines recommends that adults get 20%-35% of their calories from fats. At a minimum, you need at least 10% of your calories to come from fat.
So which foods provide you with the goodness of carbs?
By eating more polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats you can raise HDL (your good cholesterol) and lower LDL (the bad kind). By checking labels you should focus on lowering your intake of saturated fats, which increase your total cholesterol and LDL. This kind of fat is found in meat, certain plant foods, and dairy products, which possess other nutritional values that you don’t necessarily want to cut. Likewise, try to knock trans fats on the head, which increases your total bad cholesterol and lower the good kind. These are found in processed and fried foods, meaning fast food and takeaways are out of the question.
Your shopping list should, therefore, rely more heavily on natural products:
✓ Canola oil
✓ Olive oil
✓ Sweet potato
✓ Kidney beans
✓ Chick peas
The above list also contains items that can be eaten on the go or pre-prepared and eaten cold when you’re looking to get some healthy, low-fat energy. If it’s body fat that you’re avoiding, snacking may be one of your vices. However, when done properly, smaller meals can be a more efficient way of consuming fuel and good for a speedy metabolism when done alongside an active lifestyle.