The last Macro, but certainty not least are Carbohydrates! By now, if you’ve been following us through this series, you should know that all three macronutrients are equally as important as one another. However, Carbohydrates have gotten to be a more sensitive topic has the years have gone by. The spiciest debate used to be fat, but it seems that now people fear carbohydrates more than anything. The hate on carbs comes from the people blaming it for the main cause of fat gain, diabetes, and other health conditions. Carbohydrates don’t help themselves by pretty much being in every single delicious meal you could think of, but better understanding the role carbs play in our bodies might make it easier for people not to fear it. Just as we discussed in our previous blog, Not All Fats are Created Equal, same goes for Carbohydrates!
So what are Carbohydrates?
Carbs (Carbohydrates) are organic molecules that are made up of three components, which are your fiber, starch, and sugar. Carbs can be found in many different foods such as fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy products, and even in sugary foods like candy. Carbohydrates are typically classified by their general chemical structure- as monosaccharides, oligosaccharides, and polysaccharides. There are two different types of carbs, simple carbs, and complex carbs. The difference between them is their chemical structure, and also how quickly they are digested and absorbed.
Let’s talk Simple.
Simple carbohydrates are also known as simple sugars, which are quickly absorbed and digested into the body to be used as energy. They are composed of simple carbs to easily digest, and basic sugars which have little real value for your body. Although these sugars occur naturally in things such as milk and fruits, most simple carbs are found as added sugars to American foods. Some examples of simple carbohydrates are:
- Corn syrup
- High fructose syrup
- Raw sugar
- Brown sugar
- Fruit juice concentrate
- White bread
- White flour
- White rice
- Breakfast cereals
These carbs are known to be the “unhealthy” carbs due to all the fiber, vitamins, and minerals that are stripped off of them. These fast digesting simple sugars can cause swings in blood sugar levels, and lead to rapid spikes on insulin levels as well. This is the reason why numerous of people fear carbohydrates, and completely stay away from them. Although these simple carbs may seem bad, they do have their place in the fitness world. After a workout, your body is depleted of glycogen and glucose from the stress it went through. Simple sugars begin the process of recovery and muscle growth from the fact of how fast digesting they are. The fact that simple carbs spike up the insulin in this case is actually a good thing. As insulin now drives the nutrients into the muscles instead of converting to fat, of course protein is needed after a workout as well. This is why there is several research studies suggesting that the best post workout shake is chocolate milk.
So what’s Complex?
Complex carbohydrates have more nutrients and digest slowly into the body, while helping manage insulin spikes. These complex carbs are made up of fiber and starch. Fiber is also important in a diet as it helps control cholesterol, relieve constipation, and prevent other diseases. These complex carbohydrates are most commonly found in plant foods, but can also be found in:
- Whole grains
- Starch vegetables like sweet potatoes
- Brown rice
Due to complex carbs being slow to digest, eating this throughout the day will give you longer lasting energy. Since the energy releases out slowly, the effects of a “crash” is less likely to occur. Which is why having a good complex carb filled pre workout meal is good to aid in your performance. Complex carbohydrates also help you feel fuller throughout the day, which helps prevent overeating.
Bottom line is don’t be scared of carbohydrates, not even the simple ones. The only people who should avoid carbohydrates, especially the simple carbs, are those diagnosed with diabetes by a medical professional. Carbohydrates are your body’s immediate source of energy, especially when exercising in a high intensity. They are key to maximize not only energy, but speed, power, stamina, and concentration. An athlete should definitely not avoid carbohydrates, as this is their number one source of fuel. The minimal recommendation intake for carbohydrates is 130 grams per day for the general population. This of course could vary depending on the individual and their goals. The more active you are; the more carbs you need to fuel your body. This balance also takes into account how much protein and fat one is already consuming.
Leave the worries and calculations to the nutrition coaches at UNCHAINED NUTRITION and just focus on hitting your macros and goals! Send us an email today to get started with your nutritional programing.