Carbohydrates get a bad rap in the world today, but how much of what you hear about carbs is actually true? Should you really avoid carbs if you are trying to lose weight? If not, how many carbs should you actually have?
What Are Carbohydrates?
Carbs are sugar molecules that you ingest through your diet for energy and they are the fuel your body prefers to use the most.
- Monosaccharides- single molecule sugars
- Disaccharides- made up of two monosaccharides
- sucrose- composed of glucose and fructose. Also known as table sugar.
- lactose- composed of glucose and galactose and most commonly found in milk.
- maltose- composed of two glucose molecules and is frequently found in sport nutrition products.
- Oligosaccharides- contain between 3 and 10 monosaccharides and are found in legumes, onions and banana
- Polysaccharides – contain more than 10 monosaccharides
- glycogen- storage form of glucose in humans. The body breaks down glycogen into glucose when needed to use it as energy when you need it, for example, if you decide to go for a run.
- starch- storage form of carbohydrates in plants. These are found in vegetables, legumes, wheat and barley
- Fiber- not digested or absorbed by the body but has a ton of benefits!
Understanding The Glycemic Index
The Glycemic Index is a system that organizes carbohydrates by their rate and speed of absorption. What does that mean?
Simple and refined carbohydrates will be absorbed into the blood stream quickly and run through the body quickly also. When a person eats simple carbohydrates (like white bread, for example) they will experience a surge of energy (usually referred to as the “sugar rush”) and less than an hour later, as the sugar leaves their system, they will feel tired and hungry again.
Complex carbs and foods with plenty of fiber will give that same person more energy for a prolonged period of time on the same caloric intake.
Foods higher on the Glycemic Index move through the body quickly and those lower on the Glycemic Index are digested and absorbed more slowly.
You want to eat the carbs that are lowest on the Glycemic Index. Glycemic Indexes of 55 or below are considered low and Glycemic Indexes of 70 or above are considered high.
Are Carbs Bad For My Health?
This is a tricky question. Carbs are technically neither good nor bad.
You can eat a low carbohydrate diet with no major health issues. That being said, many low carbohydrate diets are incredibly high in saturated fat. Diets high in saturated fat (usually found in animal proteins) often lead to high cholesterol and heart disease.
Many carbohydrates like fruit, vegetables and whole grains are full of amazing health benefits including aiding in weight loss. The most important aspect to eating carbs is finding the right ones to eat.
Basic Rules for Safe Carb Eating
- Stick to the carbs in veggies, fruit, legumes, barley and whole wheat and steer clear of processed carbs
- Eat plenty of fiber
- If you are looking to lose weight, stop eating carbs at 3pm
- Exercise to deplete your glycogen stores
- The RDA for carb consumption is 130 g per day for adults and children