- February 20th, 2013
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Carbohydrates- the new enemy of the modern world. The arch enemy of diets that litter hundreds of women’s magazines worldwide. But when did this hate for carbohydrates emerge? Why are people so afraid of carbs, and why do they think that the solution is to eat low fat AND low carb? Is there anything else left that we aren’t afraid to eat?
Through the test of time, different food stuffs, exercise regimes and techniques are all heavily criticised and get bad press. Now, even protein is getting bad press: http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/19449377.
So, what’s the deal with carbohydrates?
Carbohydrates are often described as an energy source, as your body can convert them more readily into glucose which provides you with fuel. Your body will either use glucose immediately, or store it in your liver or muscles for when it is needed. Your pancreas secretes insulin, which controls the uptake of glucose by your cells.
Excess glucose is converted to glycogen, which is stored in your liver, fat or muscles. Your body releases glucagon to convert glycogen back to glucose, which is then released into your bloodstream for your body to use.
Here comes the part that we all hear about all the time: the difference between good and “bad” carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates are “good” carbohydrates- they ensure that this cycle of glucose, glycogen and glucagon is a slow one and that you have slower and more sustainable energy levels in your body. Refined carbohydrates cause peaks and drops of sugar levels and less stable energy levels in your body.
Carbohydrates aren’t “higher in calories” than protein- in fact, 1g of carbohydrates contains 4 calories and 1g of protein contains the same- 4 calories. What differs is how your body uses the different macronutrients and the metabolic effect they have.
Despite the popularity of cutting carbohydrates, they play an essential role in the body and are imperative for dietary health and should form part of a successful weight management regime. When consumed in the correct portions, they will only break down to provide the body with energy and excess calories will not be stored as fat.
Oh, and one more thing I must mention: you know those great “zero carb” diets you go on, and you lose around half a stone in week – do you realise why? It’s because you drop WATER weight. I get so mad when I see ridiculous advertisements for “lose 7lbs in 10 days” and on closer inspection they are always cutting out carbohydrates!
Carbohydrates cause your body to hoard salt/sodium rather than get rid of it- and in turn your body must increase it’s fluid level to remain balanced. When you cut carbohydrates, you let go of water and also salt that your body has been holding.
Carbohydrates often get bad press- we are told they cause diabetes, they stimulate our appetites and they make us fat. The reason they are called a “macro nutrient” is because they are one of three major nutrients required in our diets- carbohydrates, fats and protein.
I fear that this is a topic that could go on for hours, and I have no doubt will spark much debate; particularly from the ketogenic diet lovers out there. However, in summary, I will leave you with a link to an excellent article by Extreme Nutrition athlete and DFAC Natural Professional Bodybuilder, world champion Andrew Chappell, and tell you that carbohydrates are good when you make good choices!
Low carbohydrate, high protein diets- a poor fit for the natural bodybuilder: http://www.musclechat.co.uk/natural-bodybuilding-natural-olympia-no-2-andrew-chappell/35813-high-protein-low-carb-diets-poor-fit-natural-bodybuilder-part-1-a.html