Carbohydrates in our opinion have an unnecessarily bad reputation in some corners of the media, health and fitness world and is without doubt one of the most misunderstood and confusing areas of nutrition for the general public , with constant conflicting information on high carb vs low carb diets and what is a good or bad source of carbohydrates. This article aims to share with you some of our thoughts on carb intake, how this effects the body and to direct you to some of the foods we suggest you include in your diet and the reasons as to why. As a starting point (and as way of a disclaimer) everyone has a different metabolic reaction to carbohydrate, fats and even proteins, so assessing how much of each should be included in the diet is a very personal thing and is determined by your training intensity, genetics, metabolism, previous dietary history and of course your goals. Another important factor is to remember is that all carbohydrates are not created equal, when we eat carbs these are digested and eventually will break down and increase our levels of blood sugar (glucose) , our bodies primary source of energy, the level to which the carb source raises blood glucose is called the Glycaemic Index (GI), the higher the level the higher the GI index. So why is this important? Well this is all down to the hormone that is primarily targeted with dealing with carbohydrate, which I’m sure you will have heard of, Insulin. Now as people who train, or even those who just want to lead a healthy lifestyle, we have a love hate relationship with what can be a Jekyll and Hyde hormone. Insulin’s key role in the body is as a transporters of nutrients, helping use carbs to replenish stores of muscle glycogen, our primary store for energy, for exercise and other sites of storage such as the liver and is therefore considered the most anabolic (tissue building) hormone in the body. So insulin is good right? Well yes, when released in the right amounts, at the right times in response to the correct training stimulus. However if insulin is increased too rapidly and to too high of a level throughout the day especially in repeated bouts, known as ‘spiking’, this can lead to a lack or an appropriate insulin response and effect sensitivity, in severe cases this can lead to type 2 diabetes. This means that carbohydrates are not dealt with effectively by the body and are more likely to be transported and converted to its unwanted form, body fat. This also holds true for any excessive amount of carbohydrates consumed, once the areas for glycogen storage are full, any excess will be converted to fat. This is the reason why we recommend monitoring your own carb intake and timings to determine at what point you ‘overspill ‘ and lay down unwanted fatty tissue, so you can then reduce or maintain carbohydrate levels at their optimum and increase them or decrease them as you see fit in a gradual manner to help you reach your goals. It has even been suggested that in a calorific deficit spiking insulin too frequently can lead to stalling of fat loss, so this emphasises the need to choose our carbohydrate sources carefully and in consideration of our goals. On a related but very important side note, typically the more refined or processed the food the quicker it converts to blood glucose, so we advise avoid using sources of carbs that have been over refined or processed. Which is why we advise, eating low GI carbs every few hours using whole grain foods or ‘straight from the ground’ carb sources, for most of your daily carb intake to create stable blood sugar, reduce excessive insulin spikes and in turn provide a steady supply of energy to help your body perform optimally and curb sugar cravings. Here at CSN some of our favourite sources are oats, rice and sweet or red skin potatoes. On a final and some might say confusing tangent, we also recommended a source of the much maligned high GI carbs in your post training (and even during training for endurance activities) nutrition. This serves the role of quickly replenishing depleted muscle glycogen stores, to help you sustain performance in endurance activities or used after exercise to also rapidly transport glucose and other nutrients into the muscle, such as amino acids to help you recover and/or build muscle faster. For the High GI sources of carbs we would recommend using Vitargo or Highly Branched Cyclic Dextrin, these allow an initial large insulin spike to help in the transportation of nutrients, but return blood sugar levels to normal more quickly than other high GI carb sources. These are also highly water soluble, meaning that they are less likely to cause stomach upsets and you can use higher amounts of these carbs to refill glycogen stores much faster than other high GI carbs commonly found in sports drink formulations. So there you have it, that’s the low down on carbs. In conclusion, both low and high GI carbs can have an important part to play in the diet, and awareness of the how these react in the body can help define what food choices you make. As always if you have any questions please pop in store or ask us online through our Facebook or Twitter accounts and we will do our best to provide you with the answer! Peace, weights and protein shakes. Paul Rimmer (BSc, MSc).
Carbohydrates: Good Carb, Bad Carb.
By Paul Rimmer on September 7th, 2014