To carb or not to carb...

Poor carbs, they really do get quite a bit of rap these days and quite unfairly... they've really not done anything wrong.

The success of famous low carb diets in achieving rapid weight loss by cutting carbs means that this important macro can very often be omitted from someone's diet completely in a bid to lose weight quickly. And of course, it does work. So let's look at why and also whether we should.

Why do I need carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates are the body's preferred source of energy because they convert quickly and easily into glucose (which is transformed into energy). The harder your body is working, the more carbohydrates contribute so, if you're working out hard and raising your heart rate, your body will be drawing it's energy to do so from carbs rather than fats.

Some carbohydrates are more equal than others

There are 3 different types of carbohydrates:

  • Simple (sugar)
  • Complex (starch)
  • Non-starch polysaccharides (fibre)

Simple carbohydrates are sugars (glucose, fructose and galactose). In order for the body to use these for energy, they need vitamins - particularly vitamin B. This is why simple carbs such as fruit which are full of vitamins and minerals, are much better for your body than refined carbohydrates such as a jam sandwich, chocolate bar and a bottle of pop which have no nutrient value what-so-ever. What we all need to be aware of is that eating too many refined and processed simple carbohydrates will increase your risk of obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Complex carbohydrates are more often referred to as starches. Unlike simple, these carbs are savoury rather than sweet but just like simple carbs, the more they've been left alone, the better they are for us. So, refined carbs like white bread, white rice, white pasta and pastry have no vitamins and minerals in them and therefore provide us with no nutritious value. On the other hand, unrefined complex carbs provide us with fibre, vitamins and minerals, antioxidants... the list goes on. This is why, we're better off adding more wholemeal or whole grain breads, whole grain rice and vegetables, quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) to our place then their refined alternatives.

Fibre is also incredibly important but not because it provides us with energy - it doesn't! - but because it helps move the food we've eaten through our digestive system... and this makes it easier to poo - well, that's important right?!

So should I be eating carbs?

Ultimately, there is no reason for the general population not to eat carbs. And, if you're an active person and you exercise, carbs are an important source of energy in your diet.

Will you lose weight if you cut carbs from your diet? Yes, of course, although the rapid weight loss you see in the first few days is water. Of course, as with any of the macros, the only reason you've lost weight is because by removing carbs, you've removed calories. It's not carbs specifically that has made the difference. Plus, cutting carbs isn't sustainable - can you really imagine not eating (or drinking) any carbs for the rest of your life??!

Instead, choose the right carbs. Choose the ones that are going to fuel your body and make you stronger and healthier by stocking you full of the good stuff! And how do you do this? Just pick the ones which haven't been tampered with... whole foods that a farmer (rather than a factory) provides, most of the time

For those who are diabetic or insulin sensitive, avoiding refined carbs will help keep your blood sugar levels steady. For all of us, as with fats and protein, how much is right for you personally varies between each of us, so take note of how you feel an hour or so after eating and experiment with your ratio of macros to find the perfect balance for you.

Next time on the blog... alcohol!

Spark Fitness is passionate about helping you become the healthiest, fittest and most confident you. Providing in-home and outdoors personal training in north Manchester and nutritional advice, find out how I can help you to spark your fitness journey without stepping foot in a gym here.