CARBS. We love them and love to hate them. I feel like there are so many myths/misconceptions surrounding carbs so in this week’s episode of #FitnessUnfcked my guest fitness writer will be giving us the low down on carbs. It’s a bit lengthy but trust me, the info is super important if you want to have a better understanding of carbs & how they affect your body/fitness & errything else.
#FitnessUnfcked is a weekly fitness series on my blog where I have my guest writer, Hemant Pooran*, discuss various aspects of fitness especially geared to women. See this post & this post on our last episodes.
P.S. don’t miss exclusive sneak peaks & BTS so follow me @itsroxyjames on instagram & snapchat.
What the heck is a carb?
There are three major macronutrients that we consume: carbohydrate (carbs), protein and fat. Carbs provide most of the energy our bodies need, although protein and fat can also be metabolized for energy if necessary. One gram of carb provides the body with four calories of energy.
Once consumed, carbs are metabolized into a simple sugar, glucose, which fuels energy production in muscles and tissues while excess glucose is stored in fat (adipose) tissues.
“Good carbs” vs “Bad carbs” ?
Okay so you may have heard about good carbs and bad carbs, but this really isn’t a scientific thing. What is actually more accurate to say is that there are different ratings for different carbs. The glycemic index (GI) is used to rate carbs based on how they affect blood glucose levels.
Simple carbs have a high GI, whereas complex carbs have a low GI.
Low GI carbs (<55) are more slowly digested, absorbed and metabolized resulting in a lower and slower rise in blood glucose and hence insulin levels. e.g. sweet potato, legumes (chickpeas), pasta/noodles
Medium GI (56-69) carbs are more quickly digested and can easily affect blood glucose and insulin levels. e.g. white potato, oatmeal, brown rice
Very high GI foods (>70) are refined sugar & foods containing refined sugar which can affect blood glucose and insulin levels even more drastically. e.g. white bread, fries, rice cakes
The Carb Addiction
Roxy: OMG snapchat knows about my addiction!!! It’s not normal.
Of all the macronutrients, carbs are the most addictive and the one we crave the most. This is because the brain’s main source of energy is carbs since it is metabolized faster than fat or protein, to provide quick energy.
Meanwhile, muscle & tissue can use both fat and carbs as sources of energy.
Over time and dietary conditioning, our bodies have become adjusted to relying on carbs as its main source of energy. This is why cutting carbs from a diet is initially very difficult for most as they quickly become hungry and irritable.
The dark side of carbs
Most fad diets are restrictive and almost always cut the carbs and most dieters believe that carbs make you fat. This myth as given carbs quite a bad rep but if properly understood, carbs can actually help with your fitness goals.
Its effect on the hormone insulin is what gives carbs its bad rep. So how does this whole insulin hormone work?
- carbs are digested and broken down into glucose which then enters the bloodstream
- insulin levels rise to regulate blood sugar levels
- insulin responds by telling the body to remove excess blood glucose and store it either in muscle tissue/liver as glycogen, or in the adipose tissues as fat.
This is why continuously consuming high GI carbs can over time can reduce insulin sensitivity, so that blood sugar isn’t properly regulated and more fat storage takes place.
Sooo, can you eat carbs AFTER a workout?
YES. Carbs are actually important and beneficial especially after a workout because your muscles need to recover. This muscle recovery is done by replenishing muscle glycogen and optimizing protein uptake. Also, after a workout, it is the best time to consume a high GI carb without worrying about fat storage.
The carb rules
- Carbs are the trickiest macronutrient to control because of its satiating effect, but it helps if we change how we see carbs.
Firstly think of carbs as an energy source for our bodies. Therefore, you should try to match your carb consumption with your activity level. E.G.
- you will require more energy on your workout days than on your rest days
- more energy during the day when you’re out & about, than at night when you are preparing to sleep.
- THINK: quality and timing.
Quality refers to whether it is simple (high GI) or complex (low GI). Timing refers to ‘when do you need it most’.
For example, right after a workout we want to quickly begin the muscle repair process so we want a fast digesting carb that would elevate insulin levels and begin the nutrient uptake to muscles and tissues. White rice would be a good choice here. However, during the rest of the day, our activity level is lower and we don’t really need a fast digesting carb. Complex carbs such as sweet potato or brown rice would be ideal.
- Reducing carbs
Keep in mind that anytime you make dietary changes, especially by reducing carbs you will feel hungry initially as your body (and brain) adjusts to the change. Do not give in and binge eat or splurge on carbs. Healthy fats and high fiber foods also have a satiating effect, keeping you fuller while taking your mind off the feeling of hunger.
*Hemant Pooran is a (sexy AF) ISSA certified fitness instructor with over 10 years experience in the world of fitness & nutrition. He’s been my friend for a few years and I know that he knows his way well around the fitness world. When I first thought about this idea, he immediately jumped into my mind. Hope he can clarify any questions you have & help you out in your own fitness journey.
Okay babes- that’s it for this week’s #FitnessUnfcked topic. Hope it gave you a better understanding of carbs and carb myths because I sure learnt some new things.
If you have any topics you would like covered for this series, leave it in the comments below or ask me here.