Serial Trainer

{August 15, 2008}   Carbohydrates: Friend or Foe?

There is much speculation as to whether Carbohydrates are friend, or foe. Depending on whether you’re healthy or have special dietary needs, this can be a very confusing battle. A lot of fad diets have you cutting carbs and this leads many of you to believe that the more you cut out carbs the better. So let’s take a look at it.

Truth: You need carbohydrates. When you cut carbohydrates out of your diet, you see you lose weight. Fast, in most cases. I challenge you to take a look at what your original diet looked like.  Were you eating a lot of bread and processed foods? Were you eating a lot of pasta? Eating out, maybe?

If this sounds like you, then yes, when you cut the “carbs” out of your diet, you see an instant result. Why is this? Because you had an over-abundance of them in the first place! Let’s take a look at why we need carbohydrates.

Carbohydrates come in two forms. Starches and Sugars. The “Sugars” are called simple because your body can make them. These come in things like candy, honey, sugar, soda. The “Starches” are called complex. These carbs take longer to digest and may be called “slow burning carbs”. They come in things like bread, noodles, rice and even vegetables.

So what’s the deal? Why do we need to include them in our diet? Because they give us energy. Simple sugars are small bursts of energy and should only be consumed if you’re planning on using them right away. Think of it as the “sprinter” of the two. The problem with simple sugars (especially for diabetics) is that there’s a sharp raise in your blood sugar and then the body must regulate it.

The slow burning carbs should be used to fuel you throughout your day. They’re the “long distance runner”.  They also help to keep you satisfied until your next meal. A bowl of oatmeal is an excellent start to any day and includes a lot more benefits than just giving you fuel. These can also be dangerous to a diabetic and a certified diabetic nutrionist should be used to teach you which amount of carbohydrates are best for you.

When you consume carbohydrates, your body turns them into gluclose. Glucose is necessary to move your body and to function properly. When you don’t eat, you get tired easily and you find it hard to concentrate. This is because it’s running out of its fuel.

The other issue is that your body can only use so much glucose at one time. So if there’s glucose that you can’t use immediately, your body will store it. Let that sink in. You eat a huge plate of pasta and then sit down for the rest of the night watching television. Your body is storing it. Where? In your liver and muscles and it’s then converted to glycogen.

Now, your body has an abundance of this glycogen stuff. It’s like buying too much food and it doesn’t fit in your refridgerator. So your body has to do something with it. Ah yes! The “extra” fridge in the garage!  FAT! Now you know where you got that junk in the trunk from!

Complex carbohydrates have another thing going for them. Your body takes longer to digest them so that means you’re burning more calories in the digestion process. They also, most times, have more vitamins and minerals in them.

The question you’re probably asking yourself is, “how many carbs should I consume a day?”

It can range from 40-75% of your daily caloric intake. Atheletes will need more than someone who does not workout as much. If you’re a couch potato, lay off large amounts of carbs or you will start to see yourself expanding. If you’re an athelete, be sure you’re getting the proper amounts of carbohydrates to fuel your activity level.

I hope that this post shed some light on your confusion. If you have any questions, post them and I’ll do my best to answer!


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