The basics of carbohydrates

Posted by Ben Simpkins on November 21, 2016

This is the first part of our nutritional basics, the aim here is to help you and our personal training clients get a little bit of a better understanding as we often get tonnes of questions about diets and nutrition. The plan is to give you a basic guide to protein, carbs and fats followed by an in-depth one, in case you want all the science-y bits!

Carbohydrates have taken a real hit in recent years with many low carb diets popping up from all over the place, each one with a slight twist but the focus being on cutting out carbs. Now the main thing to remember that all of these new diets are fads, they always have been and always will be, people want the magic pill for results and yes if you cut something out of your life that you are overindulging in, you will most likely lose weight. Especially if you are cutting out sugary foods! But in this post, we are giving you a little knowledge into what carbs are, what they do and why you actually need to be taking carbs daily to achieve your ideal body shape.

Carbohydrates fall into a food group called your macronutrients and these go along with protein and fats. You also have your micronutrients in vitamins and minerals, to complete the pack you also have water along with fibre. Ensuring you get the right amount of these daily is paramount to you living a balanced lifestyle and it allows your body to function at its peak.

Carbs can be broken down into 3 groups, you have simple, complex and dietary fibre. 1g of carbohydrates will provide your body with 4 calories worth of energy and this is your bodies ideal source of energy.

Our body stores carbs in the body as glycogen and then breaks that down into glucose when it is needed by either the muscles or the brain to work properly. If your body is low on sugar you will start to lose focus and to become light headed/feel faint. This is why a lot of marathon runners faint while doing the run as their bodies store depletes and unless they top up, usually with the running gels, the body cannot cope.

If you are not taking in enough carbs throughout the day, the body works on creating glucose from other sources and it usually decides to breakdown and destroys your muscles. Because your muscles demand energy and need glucose to work, the less muscle you have, the lower the demand is for glucose and the body would much rather keep its fat stored up as it sees that as a protection layer and a good store of energy.

This is why you will lose weight on these fad diets but not look toned, as you may well know muscle weights more than fat so although your scales show you results, you may not like what you see in the mirror!

Where do you get carbs from

As stated earlier there are 3 types, your simple carbs (sugar), complex carbs (starches) and dietary fibre which is the bit that can’t be broken down but aids with digestion, these are usually the outer layers of seeds and vegetables.

You will most likely have heard of simple carbs and complex carbs as these are used in the mainstream media. You should be looking at cutting simple carbs from your diet and putting more focus on complex which will result in keeping your energy levels higher for longer and allow you to keep your blood sugar levels lower which will keep your insulin response down.

Example food sources?

Simple carbs are usually sugar based so they can be found in honey, fruits, sweets, fizzy drinks, fruit juices, syrups and junk foods

Complex carbs are the ones that give you a steady release of energy and are found in things like wholemeal products, oats, beans, peas, seeds and potatoes

Fibre is usually found in the outer layers of wholemeal products, beans, pulses, vegetables, nuts and bran-based cereals

How many should I consume each day?

This will vary upon many factors like age, weight, activity levels and gender along with many other factors and the best way to figure out how many you should be having would be to speak to one of our coaches who can take you through all your need to know for your basic nutrition and lifestyle guidelines to achieve a healthy active lifestyle.

If you can’t get in to speak to our coaches then try to focus on including many complex carbs that are high in fibre and obviously limit how many simple carbs you take in on a daily basis, you always need to take some in, but don’t over indulge!

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