Carbohydrates are always getting a bad rap when really they are a huge essential part of a healthy diet! The problem is that we often eat the worst kind of carbs. Carbs should make up about 60% of our daily caloric intake. In a regular 2000 calories per day diet, this comes out to about 1200 calories or about 300g of carbohydrates per day. They are essential fuel for our body. Carbs are used as glucose in the body to power muscle. Without them, our body would rely on our own protein for energy causing the break down of muscles. The flip side to this is that excess carbs are stored in the body as glycogen or fat, this will then be converted to glucose and used by the body for energy as needed. Eating an excess of carbs will the body to store more glycogen or fat. Unless we use up that glycogen for energy it will stay stored in our bodies as fat.
There are two main types of carbohydrates: simple and complex. Simple carbs or sugars are composed of only one molecule or sugar; versus the two molecules of sugar that are found in complex carbs. Simple carbs can be found foods such as candy and fruit juice. These types of foods/drinks cause a spike in blood sugar, as they don’t need to be broken down and can be absorbed quickly into the bloodstream. Complex carbs can be found in foods such as potatoes, whole grains, and fibrous vegetables. Complex carbs don’t cause huge spikes in blood sugar, as they take longer to digest, and need to be broken down before being taken up by the blood. They also leave you feeling fuller for longer after a meal than simple carbs do. The line between simple and complex carbs can become blurred when complex carbs become refined, a process through which all the essential vitamins and minerals are removed. Refined carbs can be found in foods such as white bread, white rice, pasta, and cereal. These act like simple carbs in that they are digested quickly and cause an unhealthy spike in blood sugar. It is important to eat a lot of carbohydrates to get adequate fuel for our bodies especially if we are working hard in the gym. However, it is equally as important to make sure that most of our daily carb intake comes for complex carbs such as those found in whole grains like quinoa and brown rice, potatoes, beans, whole grain pasta, and corn. Not only do they leave us feeling satisfied for longer but the also give our hard-working bodies the vitamins, mineral, and antioxidants that they deserve!
Depending on your goals, weight, and daily activity level the exact amount of carbohydrates you should take in varies. Typically if you are trying to gain muscle it is recommended that you take in more carbohydrates increase energy for lifts and allow for building new muscle. On the other hand, when you are trying to lose weight the opposite is suggested. I have posted a link below to help you calculate your personal daily target carb intake.
I wanted to write about carbohydrates specifically because I see far too often people thinking that the only answer to losing weight is to cut carbs out completely. While this is an option, there are some many healthier ways to include carbs in your diet that will actually help you achieve you gym goals! Not to mention the whole host of symptoms that comes along robbing your body of carbs it needs such as headaches, fatigue, weakness, muscle cramping, and diathermia. Another option that I always see in the media is the concept of a low carb diet, which seems like a nice alternative. However, this type of diet often encourages people to eat foods high in saturated fats and cholesterol in order to stay satisfied and keep energy up. This is because the carbs, which normally fills that role, are not available to the body. All this is to say that carbohydrates are not the big bad enemy that they are made out to be. They are actually a huge essential part of a healthy diet. The bigger issue rather is knowing what types of carbs we should be eating; instead of focusing on how can we eliminate them. Complex carbohydrates, as listed above, provide a great source nutrients that keeps the body full and energized, and will ultimately help you achieve results in the gym!
Link to calculate suggested daily carbohydrate intake:
Top 31 on protein and complex carbohydrate food combinations. (2015, February 18). Retrieved March 04, 2018, from https://www.healthtap.com/topics/protein-and-complex-carbohydrate-food-combinations