Carbohydrates are an important yet often misunderstood macronutrient. I frequently hear people talking about how they have cut carbs from their diet in order to lose weight, as they often get blamed for those excess pounds. The truth is, it’s probably not just Carbohydrates fault, but a combination of poor choices, large portion sizes, and lack of energy expenditure.
Along with fat and protein, carbohydrates are called macronutrients. They are referred to as such because they have caloric value and the body has a large daily need for them. With that said, I personally do not think excluding any macronutrient from the body is a good way to lose pounds. This will just starve your body of nutrients that it needs in order to work efficiently.
It’s simple, and complex! Carbohydrates are composed of single or linked sugar molecules. Monosaccharides (glucose, fructose, and galactose) and disaccharides (sucrose, maltose, and lactose) are considered simple sugars. Monosaccharides are one single molecule of sugar, while disaccharides are made up of two sugar molecules. Complex carbs, which include fibre and starch, are composed of many sugar molecules linked in a long and often complicated carbon chains.
Simple sugars are quickly digested by the body due to its simple structure, and more often than none have little nutritional benefit. They include such things as white flour, table sugar, honey, and candy, chocolate, pop, jams, boxed cereals, fruits, and vegetables. Although most simple sugars are junk to the body, fruits and vegetables are an exception.
On the other end, complex sugars such as fiber and starch take much longer to digest and will not cause a great spike in blood sugar. Grains, legumes, potatoes, yams, oats, barley, fruits, and vegetables are awesome sources of carbs that will help sustain energy levels throughout your day.
Without carbohydrates, you’ll find yourself tired, confused, slow, and pissed off. Although fats are the body’s primary source of energy, carbs are needed in order to metabolize those fats. Glucose is the brains primary source of energy, at least 130 grams of it is needed every day just for the brain to function properly! Furthermore, as the intensity of the activity/exercise increases so does the reliance on carbs for energy. In fact, carbohydrates are the only macronutrient that can supply energy for anaerobic (without oxygen) activities, such a sprinting.
So how much do we need?
The acceptable macronutrient distribution range (AMDR) for both males and females is 45-65% of total calories consumed. Factors such as training frequency and intensity, medical conditions, and food preferences will help determine your carb needs. To keep it simple, recreational athletes training 3-5 times a week will require amounts at the lower end of this range.
So long as the bulk of your carbohydrates come from healthy sources, and you have a good balance of healthy fats and proteins in your diet, carbs are not to be blamed for any excess weight you may be carrying. Instead of white, eat whole grain rice, pasta, and breads; try ancient grains such as kammut, spelt, millet, or quinoa (yeah…I know it’s considered a seed). Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits, and try to eliminate or reduce your consumption of poor sources such as candy, pop, and jams.
Thanks a million for reading my short article on carbs!