Demystifying Carbohydrates

Over the past few years carbohydrates have become big news with numerous celebrity endorsed “low carb” diets being promoted. So are carbohydrates bad news? In this article we will try to shed some light on it for you.

What are Carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates are made from a combination of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen hence the name ‘carbo’ (meaning carbon) ‘hydrate’ (meaning water which is made from hydrogen and oxygen).  Carbohydrate is the primary source of fuel for energy in your body. This is because they can be converted more readily into glucose than proteins or fats. Glucose is the form of sugar that's transported and used by the body.

You will probably have heard of simple and complex carbohydrates.

Simple Carbohydrates

The simplest carbohydrate is glucose. Glucose, also called "blood sugar" and "dextrose", flows in the bloodstream so that it is available to every cell in your body. Your cells absorb glucose and convert it into energy to drive the cell.
When you look at a nutrition label on a food package and see "sugars" under the "carbohydrates" section of the label, these simple sugars are what the label is talking about.

Complex Carbohydrates

There are also complex carbohydrates, commonly known as "starches". Most grains (such as wheat, corn, oats, rice) and things like potatoes are high in starch. Your digestive system breaks a complex carbohydrate (starch) into glucose molecules so that the glucose can enter your bloodstream.

Complex carbohydrates such as rice, pasta, vegetables, oats, and seeds contain lots of nutrients (such as vitamins, minerals and fiber) and should not be eliminated from your diet (despite the fads for low carb diets!!)

Complex carbohydrates as natural starches are found in foods such as:
• bananas
• beans
• brown rice
• chickpeas
• lentils
• nuts
• oats
• potatoes
• root vegetables
• wholemeal breads
• wholemeal pasta

 

When you train hard, carbohydrates stored in your body (this is called glycogen) is used for energy. When you train hard on a regular basis, your glycogen stores start to run out. In the same way that a car only stores a limited amount of petrol, your body can only store a limited amount of glycogen. Once glycogen runs out, your body is then forced to burn valuable muscle tissue for energy.

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