Article written by KATHLEEN RAFAAT – EatPlayLIveBreath Nutrition – 2013
WHAT ARE THEY?
Carbohydrates are found in all food, even a small amount in meat, but mostly in fruits, grains and vegetables. Chemically, carbohydrates in food are made up of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen.
SIMPLE carbs – sugars – are one or two molecule combinations, which include glucose (blood sugar), fructose (fruit sugar) and galactose and are the easiest to digest. The two-molecule carbs include sucrose (table sugar), lactose (milk sugar), and maltose (malt sugar).
COMPLEX carbs – starches – contain large 300 to 1,000 molecule compound and contain nothing but glucose molecules. It takes these compounds longer than simple sugars to come apart in the digestive system.
The nutritional advantages that complex carbohydrates have over simple sugars as a source of energy, derive not only from the rate at which their glucose is absorbed, but also from the amount of fiber they add to the diet and from the other nutrients present in the major sources of starch (grains, beans, tubers).
However, an increasing amount of evidence indicates that distinguishing which carbohydrates are good for you is more complicated than this simple dichotomy suggests.
What is also important when differentiating between various types of carbohydrates is how rapidly a particular carbohydrate will get metabolized into sugar and impact blood sugar (glucose) levels, otherwise known as the Glycemic Index.
WHAT ARE GOOD AND BAD CARBS?
Choose plant foods that deliver fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients along with grams of carbohydrates. These get absorbed slowly into your system, avoiding spikes in blood sugar levels. Examples: whole grains, vegetables, fruits and beans.
To meet the nutritional needs while minimizing risk for chronic disease, adults should get 45%-65% from carbs. Quality carbohydrates are loaded with fiber. Men over the age of 50 should get 30 grams, women 21 grams of fiber. (Under 50- 38/25) Start counting your fiber intake – you will be surprised on how little you eat! The more you eat, the fuller you will feel and may help prevent colon cancer and lower your risk for type 2 diabetes.
We can minimize the health risk of bad carbs by eating fewer refined and processed carbohydrates that strip away beneficial fiber like white bread and white rice.
The average adult takes in about 20 teaspoons of added sugar a day or about 320 calories. Remember that fat-free and low-fat products have added sugar, which is being substituted for fat. The USDA recommends that no more than 6%-10% of our total calories be from added sugar or 9 teaspoons a day. Look out for HFCS – high-fructose corn syrup, which is an added sugar, produced by chemically altering cornstarch that is cheaper and sweeter than sucrose. It is added to baked goods, breads, cereals, ketchup and soft drinks, so read labels carefully.
ATHLETES AND CARBS
When working out for less than 1 hour, carbohydrate replacement is probably not needed. From 1-2.5 hours- up to 30-60g per hour. Over 2.5 hours – 80-90g per hour of multiple carbohydrate. Carbo-Pro is an example of a complex carbohydrate that is useful for power, strength and endurance athletes that does NOT have fiber or any nutrients except to obtain energy immediately.
You can get your carbohydrates from natural sources for your pre and post meal, but during a race, supplements such as sport drinks, gels and bars, are easy to tolerate and are made for quick release of energy. Always use these supplements in your training so that you know what works best.
Making energy isn’t the only thing your body does with the carbohydrate nutrients in your diet. Carbohydrates also protect your muscles. When you need energy, your body looks for glucose from carbohydrates first. If no glucose is available, your body begins to pull energy out of fatty tissue. Your body’s next move is to burn its own protein, which is muscle.
If your diet provides more carbohydrates than you need to produce, this amount of stored calories in the form of glucose and glycogen in your cells, blood, muscles and liver, the excess will be converted to fat. That is how your pasta ends up on your hips!