One diet after another is hitting the market telling us to limit our carbohydrate intake because it’s making us fat…and we listen. After all, who are we to question what the “experts” say, right? Carbohydrates have been getting a bad rap from diets such as “The Atkins Diet” and “South Beach,” for years now. However, these low carb diets aren’t exactly what the doctor would order. In fact, they should rename these low carb diets “low processed carb” diets instead. Here’s why: Good, non-processed carbohydrates are necessary in the body, especially if regular activity is a part of your lifestyle.
Carbohydrates are necessary in the body for one main reason: they give us energy. Once in the body, carbohydrates break down into sugars and are absorbed and utilized as an immediate energy source once physical activity begins. Whatever sugars (glucose), aren’t used are stored as glycogen in the muscles and liver. It’s important to have a good supply of carbohydrates on layaway for workouts so your body doesn’t need to tap into its protein storage for energy.
“But protein is a source of energy as well, so why not use it?” Yes, it’s true that the amino acids in protein can be broken down to glucose in the body and utilized as energy through a long scientific process, which I won’t bore you with. However, this method is your body’s backup plan when carbohydrates are in limited supply. This is because using protein as your main energy source means it’s not being used for its main protein specific job: maintaining healthy muscle, tissue, skin, and hair.
“Great, now I can Carbo-load on whatever I can get my hands on!” Whoa, slow down now Kobayashi. Remember earlier in this blog I mentioned they should rename these diets as “low processed carb” diets, not “eat your body weight in carbs” diet. There is a difference in carbohydrates in which I’m sure you’ve all heard about, but I’ll break it down anyway.
Simple Carbohydrates: These are absorbed into the body quickly because they consists of single or double sugar molecules as opposed to the three or more in complex carbohydrates. However, while these simple carbohydrates can provide a quick and short energy burst, they don’t provide any vitamins or minerals the body needs. Instead, they are stored as empty calories and thus promote weight gain.
- Simple Carbohydrates can be found in processed or refined grains, white flour, white rice, and anything containing non-natural sugars such as candy bars.
Complex Carbohydrates: These carbohydrates are more complex in molecular structure and for that reason are absorbed into the body more slowly and utilized as energy for a more extended period of time. Not only that, but complex carbohydrates are loaded with vitamins and minerals so when they are stored in your body, it’s not just as fat!
- Complex Carbohydrates can be found in naturally occurring forms in green vegetables, whole grains, beans, lentils, and starchy vegetables.
Moral of the story? Don’t limit all carbohydrates in your diet, just the refined and processed ones. The complex carbohydrates are necessary, especially if you are engaging in regular physical activity. Without them, you could be damaging your muscle growth and repair as well as your kidneys!