First Things First
Carbohydrates have gotten a bad wrap over the years. With the popularity of low carb diets it is easy to get confused. But I am here to tell you carbs are your friends and are a required part of any balanced diet. Why is it so important?
- Carbohydrates for Energy: Carbs are the body’s main source of energy, especially during physical activity. Carbs are broken down into sugar in the body and then are burned for energy, with excess will be stored as glycogen in the muscles and liver. Adequate intake will also improve performance and delay fatigue.
- Better Protein utilization: Your body is an amazing thing, its number one function is keep you going, and will do whatever it needs to, to achieve this. Without adequate carbohydrates it will start taking from other nutrients for energy like fat and protein. So maintaining good levels will allow protein to do what you want it to i.e. building and repairing muscle tissue.
Too Much of a Good Thing
Like all things in life, moderation is key. Excess carbs (carbs that cannot be utilized for energy) will be stored as fat in the body, so making smart choices and in the right quantity is very important. How much is enough you may ask? According to the Mayo Clinic 45% – 65% of your daily calories should come from carbohydrates.
No Carbs = Tired
Too many Carbs = Fat Storage
Now that we know WHY we need carbs, we need to discuss WHAT kind of carbs we need.
Good Carb/ Bad Carb
Real carbs are anything that comes out of the soil, sweet potatoes, quinoa, chickpeas or beans. Processed carbs are anything where the nutrients, fiber or water has been stripped and other unwanted things added such as salt, sugar or fat. According to Michael Pollen processed foods are “something our great-great grandmothers would not have recognized as food.” – In Defense of Food
Whole fruits vs. Juice
Whole fruit comes with fiber, which slows the digestion of the sugar, preventing a quick spike in blood sugar levels. When you juice a fruit the fiber is removed results in a rapid increase in blood glucose.
White flour vs. whole wheat
Wheat is made up of three parts: bran (the fiber), the germ (inner part) and the endosperm (the starch). White flour is processed by removing the bran and the germ, thus taking out the fiber and much of the nutritious parts.
Traditional does mean boring
Take a look around the grocery store at all the alternative sources of carbs available to us, from faro to barley and chickpeas to lentils. Looking to traditional sources of carbs from various cultures around the world is a great way to cut through the clutter of what is healthy. These sources have been providing people with proper nutrition for generations. And sometimes going back to the roots are the best way to go.
Remember: carbohydrates are more than just bread, pasta and potatoes. Vegetables are carbs as well, so don’t dismiss your broccoli and spinach. Making smart carb choices is a simply way to enhance performance and energy levels during physical activities. As well as controlling the waist-line and increasing health.