There are many different theories about the consumption of carbohydrates and meeting our fitness goals. Whether your goal is to build muscle or lose fat, we would like to put an end to carbohydrate confusion.
It’s important to note that carbohydrates are significantly important for health and athletic performance. Carbohydrates are the main source of energy for our body. Energy that we get from carbohydrates is important for our brain to function and our muscles to contract. They also provide us with essential nutrients and can be a great source of dietary fibre.
The first group is called simple carbohydrates, otherwise known as sugars.
- This group is further broken down into two subgroups the monosaccharide and disaccharides.
- The three main monosarccharides are glucose, fructose and galactose. Disaccharides are made up of two monosaccharides; examples include lactose in milk (glucose + galactose), maltose (glucose + glucose) and sucrose or table sugar (glucose + fructose).
- These foods are easily digestible give us a quick source of energy. There are lots of healthy sources of simple sugars such as fresh fruits and low fat milk that are essential to a healthy diet. However it is recommended by Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Eating that we reduce our consumption of other high sugar foods such as soft drinks, candy and fruit flavored drinks as they contribute lots of calories and few nutrients.
The second group is complex carbohydrates also known as starches.
- Starches are made up of many of glucose molecules. When ten or more glucose molecules combine it is called a polysaccharide.
- Complex carbohydrates provide a great source of energy for the body along with a huge variety of nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and fibre.
- Fibre is a non digestible form of carbohydrate that has many health benefits like keeping our digestive system healthy, lowering cholesterol and reducing risks for heart disease and Diabetes.
- Complex carbohydrates take longer than sugars to digest and enter our blood stream. Sources of complex carbohydrates are your whole grains and starchy vegetables.
Once we eat carbohydrates our body breaks them down into simple sugars to be used for energy, stored in our muscles or stored as fat. That being said, carbohydrates themselves are not fattening! It is the large portions of carbohydrates or the dips and spreads we use on them that may be to blame. Take a good look at how much pasta, rice or cereal is in your bowl or on your plate at your next meal. Extra calories regardless of where they come from will lead to weight gain.
So how much do we need?
Carbohydrates provide 4 calories per gram. Carbohydrates should make up approximately 55-65% of our total calorie intake. For an average person on a 2000 calorie diet, 55% of carbohydrates would equal 275 grams.
The more activity we do will increase the percentage of carbohydrates that our body needs. For example, a person who works out on a regular basis will need a higher percentage of carbohydrates then a person who does little activity.
Healthy carb tips
EAT WHOLE GRAINS – Start the day off with a high fibre cereal or whole grain toast. Have your next sandwich on whole wheat bread, wrap or pitas instead of white. Choose brown rice or whole wheat pasta more often. Whole grains help us to maintain or lose weight by keeping us full longer because they take longer to digest; they also give us the benefits of more fibre.
PORTION CONTROL – Read labels and see how many calories are in a serving. A serving of Grain should be about 68 – 100 calories.
EAT SLOW – Enjoy food! Eating too fast can result in overeating because we miss our body signaling that we are full.
EAT FRUITS AND VEGGIES – They are low in calories and provide LOADS of nutrients, fiber and antioxidants. Aim for at least 6 servings a day.
USE CANADA’S FOOD GUIDE to evaluate the servings of carbohydrates you need. Get a copy for your fridge at Health Canada’s Website: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/. Follow the links to Food & Nutrition andCanada’s Food Guide to Health Eating.