What are carbohydrates?
Carbohydrates are one of the 3 macronutrients. They are the body’s preferred fuel source (over protein and fat). Carbs are converted into glucose for energy. Excess glucose is then stored as glycogen in the muscles until it is required. The body can only store a few hours worth of carbs in the muscles. Once these stores are depleted they must be replenished. If the body doesn’t require all the energy produced from the carbs consumed, the excess will be stored in the fat cells. Carbohydrates are metabolized for energy in favour of protein. This means when adequate carbs are consumed, protein can focus on other tasks such as muscle repair.
Not all carbs are bad for you.
Carbs can be divided into 2 categories: complex and simple. Simple carbs are sugars-think processed foods such as lollies, cakes and white bread. Simple carbs are refined, meaning they have had their fibre content removed. When consumed, these carbs will cause a spike in blood sugar levels. Complex carbs are starches and fibrous foods-think wholefoods such as vegetables, potatoes and wholegrains. Complex carbs are unrefined and therefore still contain their fibre. They are also highly nutritious, containing lots of vitamins and minerals.
There is a bit of a crossover between simple and complex carbs as some foods technically could fall under both categories. For example, fruit could be considered both complex and simple due to it containing sugar and fibre.
What is GI?
You may have heard of ‘GI’ or ‘glycemic index’ in reference to carbohydrates. So what is it? GI is the measure of blood sugar levels. Our blood sugar (glucose) levels rise and fall during the day. When we eat a meal, our blood sugar levels increase.
Simple carbs are considered to have a high GI as they cause a dramatic spike in blood sugar levels when consumed. We all know that low feeling after the high caused by eating lots of chocolate!
Complex carbs such as brown rice have more of a moderate to low GI. This means the energy is released at a slower rate, preventing that dramatic drop. Eating protein and healthy fat with carbs can lower the overall GI of the meal as protein and fat are metabolized at a slower rate than carbs.
Insulin= a hormone, controls the transport of glucose from the bloodstream to the muscles and fat cells
Can I lose weight while eating carbs?
Yes you can!
Everyone is different-People tolerate different levels of carbohydrates. The body can even function on little to no carbs as it can become fat adapted. This means that the body shifts from primarily using glucose for energy to fat. The ‘ketogenic diet’ may ring a bell.
My advice for losing weight without cutting out carbs is simple! Watch your portion sizes and choose unrefined wholefood carb sources such as fruit, brown rice, potatoes, buckwheat, oats, quinoa, corn, beans and legumes.
Remember: Carbs alone won’t make you fat, but overconsumption of carbs can lead to fat gain if the energy consumed is not expended!