The War on CarboHydrates
By: Malia Steele
Congratulations you lost weight since you cut carbs out of your diet, and please let me apologize for using the evil word, carbs. Well I hate to burst your bubble, but that weight you just lost is water weight and the full name of the dietary component that you eliminated is carbohydrate and not just carbs. So instead thinking carbs are unnecessary lets take a good look as to why we need and are required to eat the wonderful macronutrient.
To many, the word “carb” is a frightening one, one that is often associated with weight gain or foods that are highly processed and bad/unhealthy for us. Breaking down the word itself into two simple ones you realize that you have carbs and then hydrates… KEY TERM.. HELLO HYDRATE! Hydration = water, cut carboHYDRATES out of your diet and you cut a key nutrient that helps retain water and keep you moving. Lets dip our toes into the science specifics.
Understanding carbs as a whole can help you understand the good vs. the not so good carbs. Carbs can be classified into two groups: simple or complex. The main differences between the two are how they are made up and what your body does with them. To make it easy, simple carbs are sugars, made up of one or two sugar molecules. They are also the quickest source of energy when they are digested. Examples of simple carbs include: raw sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup and high-fructose corn syrup, glucose, fructose and sucrose. We tried to avoid eating a lot of simple carbs such as soda, processed foods, cookies, pie, and heavily sugared juices.
Complex carbohydrates on the other hand may also be referred to as “dietary starch,” they are made up of series of sugars. Basically we are told that complex carbs are the “good carbs” and that is true, the more complex the better. The reason is because complex carbs pack in way more nutrients compared to simple carbs. They are also are much slower in digestion than simple carbs and you feel much more satiety after eating them, making you feel full and likely to eat less. In addition, complex carbs provide much more energy due to the longer digestion and break down in the body. Good examples of complex carbs include: fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans and whole grains.
Carbohydrates play key roles in how your body functions. One of the main roles is providing your body with the fuel it needs to properly perform tasks such as “long duration low-intensity resistance training”, weight lifting, running. cycling or any exercise you choose to partake in.
This fuel, you may be asking yourself, is known as glycogen. Oh yes, Glycogen! Glycogen is how the body processes and stores glucose as energy. The glycogen stored (mainly in the liver) is how specific systems in your body keep running all day long such as your brain, kidney cells and red blood cells, now just keep asking yourself why you wanted to cut these out of you diet? After a workout, your body needs to be replenished of the glycogen stores (ie, carbs) and with every glycogen, there are 3 waters attached to come to a 3:1 ratio. So when your muscles are in recovery, they are 3 x’s as “hungry” for water as they are for glycogen. Are we seeing now how carbs can actually be a good thing? Their function is even in their name, carboHYDRATES.
Your body is smart, so when you think that your are just gaining weight when your being your lazy self on a Sunday (we all do it so don’t worry), your wrong, your body is tucking away those ingested carbohydrates in order to use them for the quickest form of fuel as well as a pushed away form of fuel in prolonged endurance exercises such as marathons. Now you’re putting two and two together, aren’t you? Carbs= hydration =energy = happy body
So the negative effects of depleting your body of carbs stems from the notion that as your body burns its way through the carbohydrates and into the glycogen stores, the water attached to glycogen flushes away as well so in turn, i.e. a low carbohydrate diet basically depletes the body’s ability of retaining fluid during exercise and results in high stakes of dehydration. Did you know that you eat ~20% of your fluid intake per day? You eat your fluids by either eating foods that contain a large amount of water such as watermelon but mostly it is from eating carbohydrates. Yeah eating carbs since when you eat those carboHYDRATES you’re helping your body retain that proper amount needed to function for daily activities.
Carbohydrates are found in multiple forms of food that can help keep your body hydrated without turning to the highly processed foods that are often associated with carbohydrates. Think of the new fad of coconut water, well that is a great source of quick carbohydrates that is available to you during your workout for a quick replenishment of energy. Sports drinks with electrolytes such as PowerAde, Gatorade, vitamin water, or anything along those lines also provide carbohydrates quickly. Hey, you know that bowl of fruit on the counter, well its not just for display, those lovely healthy options also contain a good amount of carbohydrates. Bananas are considered nature’s POWER BAR of foods to eat before you indulge in a workout. They are loaded with digestible carbohydrates (aka they are FUEL) but in addition they are also packed with nutrients such as potassium that aids in maintaining nerve and muscle function. Yes, now you may go eat some carbs