Luke Teuma | UK Personal Trainer
In today’s day and age, carbohydrates are seen to be the enemy in our diets – often misconstrued with instant results of piling on weight, increasing body fat percentage and most of all – sabotaging fitness goals.
But is this all true? Could carbohydrates actually aid your fitness goals when you know which ones to eat? Let’s find out…
What are carbohydrates?
Carbohydrates are our bodies main energy supply which we all need to carry out our everyday activities. A lack of carbohydrate consumption may cause:
✓ Muscle cramps.
✓ Poor mental functions.
Anyone who participates in physical exercise will need to replenish the glycogen stores that are depleted during a workout, therefore carbohydrate consumption is essential!
Carbohydrates also play a big part in maintaining hormone balance which is vital for ultimate bodily function and performance.
If your blood sugar levels are irregular, you are more likely to crave bad foods.
However, many people do have a slight phobia of carbs – you simply need to know what types of carbs will benefit your goals!
Different Types of carbohydrates
Carbohydrates are mainly broken down into 2 main types: Simple (sugars) and Complex (starch and fibre).
The difference between the two is the simple carbohydrates have a simple molecular structure hence the name and complex carbs more complex molecular structure which affects how they’re absorbed by our bodies.
Simple carbohydrates are made of 1 to 2 sugar molecules. Simple carbs can be digested very quickly due to their simple structures and tend to elevate blood sugar levels quickly.
When consumed, these sugars are directly absorbed into the blood in the form of glucose, glucose provides us with instant energy. They potentially increase the storage of fats which if not burned or used up, can lead to obesity and other health issues.
✓ White rice
✓ White bread
✓ Cookies and biscuits
✓ Soft and sugary drinks
✓ Sweets and cakes
These are made of long chains of sugar molecules. These take longer to break down and therefore require more time for digestion compared to simple carbohydrates.
This slows the breakdown process and this supplies us with continuous energy for a longer period of time. Since these carbohydrates require more time for conversion, they are constantly used up by the body. Therefore, the sugars which are converted to fat are not stored in large amounts.
✓ Brown rice
✓ Whole Wheat
Using the Glycemic Index
The glycemic index (GI) is a ranking of carbohydrates on a scale from 0 to 100 according to how quickly they raise blood sugar levels after eating them.
Low Glycemic Carbs
These extremely nutritious containing lots of vitamins and also fibre. Fibre cannot be digested by the body and slows down the digestion of other carbohydrates which also helps with managing cravings.
Low GI foods help with athletic performance supporting steady energy. If you’re aiming for a weight loss goal, Low GI foods will be the best choices of carbs to eat in your diet.
High Glycemic Carbs
Foods with a high GI are quickly digested and absorbed in the body which results in spiked blood sugar levels.
They have usually processed foods which are higher in sugar. When eaten and digested, they will have a large amount of glucose, which if not used or burned off will most probably be stored as fat. On the other hand, you can use High GI foods to your advantage, for example: using High GI foods post workout will give you a head start on replenishing your depleted glycogen levels which you’ve used up in your workout!
Take home message
It’s true, eating lots of higher glycemic carbohydrates could lead to an increase in weight and body fat but can have advantages too. Therefore we need to be vigilant and proactive about how much of certain carbohydrates we eat and what’s types.
Avoiding carbohydrates is not a great idea no matter what your fitness goals are, remember it is still our main energy provider! The best thing to do is review how much of what types you eat, are they Higher GI? Lower GI?