Out first Macro in the Spotlight this week are Carbohydrates. Carbohydrates get a lot of stick but I’m hoping by the end of this blog post you will realise how fundamental they are in your diet.
So, let’s start with the science. Carbohydrates are broken down by an enzyme called Amylase and form Glucose. This either goes into the bloodstream to be used straight away or it gets stored as Glycogen in the muscles to be used as an energy source at a later date. Carbohydrates are the bodies preferred form of energy and so it is important they make up the majority of your diet.
There are 2 different types of carbohydrates – simple and complex. Put simply complex provide a longer more sustained source of energy. Simple, on the other hand, can lead to sugar spikes and lulls. This can then be further broken does into monosaccharides (simple), disaccharides (simple) and polysaccharides (complex). There is not need to get too bogged down with these terms – basically simple increases blood sugar levels and complex tends to not. A foods GI (Glycaemic Index) can be a good indicator as to the impact the carbohydrate will have on blood sugar levels. It’s measured as a percentage so anything below 40% is low, 40-59% medium and 60+ is high. The latter of which has the most profound impact on blood glucose levels. Now this all sounds very complex but it is actually pretty obvious and not new information at all. Take a chocolate bar. Are you full after eating a chocolate bar? Probably not. The chocolate bar has provided a quick burst of energy, followed by a lull. When you compare this with pasta, which is going to keep you fuller for longer, it is pretty obvious which you should have the most of in your diet.
Now, I could try and let you know exactly how much you should be eating of each a day, however, everybody is different. It’s recommended that carbohydrates make up 50-60% of your daily calories. If you are doing a lot of exercise, however, you will need more carbohydrates than a sedentary individual for example. This means it is difficult to give an estimate of what you should be eating so I’m afraid its trial and error. I can, however, give you some handy maths for when you know what carbohydrate percentage works best for you. Let’s say its 55% and lets say you’re on 2500 calories a day. Every gram of carbohydrate in 4kcal. So that would be 2500 X 0.55 (55%) = 1375. 1375 divided by 4 = 343g.
In circumstances where this results in a pretty ridiculous answer, you can always work it out based on your level of exercise. So if you’re exercising 2-4 hours per day it would be 7-8 grams of carbohydrates per kg of body weight. Very confusing and also, if you’re not tracking your macros, probably very unlikely. Basically, just eat carbohydrates! Try and make sure you’re eating more complex than simple and eat more if you’re doing lots of exercise.
That’s enough of all the complicated maths stuff. Let’s just get down to the basics. We know we need carbohydrates and lots of them but why?
What exactly do carbohydrates do?
Well, a hell of a lot really! First up, blood glucose is the only source of energy that the brain can use. Therefore if you don’t eat carbohydrates, that deadline you’ve got to meet is going to be a hell of a lot more difficult. They also contain a lot of fibre. Now you probably all know why we need fibre but if not, basically without fibre you can’t poo. Not pooing can cause no end of problems so get that fibre down you! They’re also pretty good protein protectors, saving your gains, whilst helping release energy from your fat stores. That’s right, you eat pasta you get muscles and lose weight (within reason, obviously, let’s not get daft). It also helps a lot with recovery and, you might be surprised to know, water storage. With every gram of glycogen stored within the muscles, there is 2.7ml of water. Without carbohydrates the body can’t retain this water and water, well, it’s pretty important.
So, there you have it. A quick, whistle stop tour of carbohydrates. They get a lot of stick but actually they are super important. I hope this blog as given you a bit of an insight into why. If you have anymore questions about carbohydrates please get it touch and I would be happy to help you out. Will cover protein and fats at some point in the future so make sure you follow by blog so you don’t miss it. Now, go and get yourself a slice of pizza and celebrate all that fibre and water storage and what not.
Lot of Love, Jamie x