CARBS!! They're the enemy right? Wrong. It's not what you eat, it's when you eat!
Carbs are a crucial part of a diet even if your goal is to lose weight or put on mass. Too many people see eating carbs as a negative thing and don't realise that they provide us with the energy to do our daily tasks productively. The problem people have with carbs is they're either eating too many or too little of the right and wrong carb sources. I don't want to make this seem like a food lecture, so I'll make it as simple as I can.
Carbohydrates are a source of energy. When eaten the body converts most carbohydrates into glucose (sugar) and uses it to fuel cells such as those of the brain and our muscles. Carbs should be the body's main source of energy in a healthy balanced diet, providing about 4 calories per gram. Carbs are broken down into glucose before being absorbed into the bloodstream, and then the glucose enters the body's cells with the help of insulin.Unused glucose can be converted to glycogen found in the liver and muscles. If unused, glucose can be converted to fat, for long-term storage of energy.
There are three different types of carbs; sugar, starch and fibre, all of which have different effects on insulin levels and their likeliness to be stored as body fat.
Avoid this as much as you can. Everyone knows too much sugar is bad for you and too much is going to be stored as body fat, so it's up to you to be disciplined and avoid too much sugar if you want the best results from your diet.
Sugar is found naturally in some foods, including fruit, honey, fruit juices, milk and vegetables. Other forms of sugar can be added to food and drink such as sweets, chocolates, biscuits and soft drinks. Remember sugar is a carbohydrate, but not all carbs are sugars.
Made up of many sugar units bonded together, starch is found in foods that come from plants. Starchy foods, like bread, rice, potatoes and pasta, provide a slow and steady release of energy throughout the day, so they make a great choice to make up the carb sources of your daily meals.
Fibre is only found in foods that come from plants. It helps keep our bowels healthy and some types of fibre may help lower cholesterol. Research shows diets high in fibre are associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and bowel cancer. Good sources of fibre include vegetables with skins on, wholegrain bread, wholewheat pasta and pulses, beans and lentils.
The key to eating carbs is deciding what your personal goal is and then altering your daily calorie and carb intake accordingly.
When most people want to lose weight, the first thing they will do is stop eating carbs and start almost starving themselves, eating the bare minimum to get through each day. The problem with this is that anything they do eat is then stored by the body as fat for when it is next starving again, as it's in a constant state of panic from the lack of food. The key to losing weight is to train your body to relax and know that you're going to feed it consistently with smaller portions per day. Instead of eating your three basic big meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) with hours between each other – which is when the starvation starts – aim to include at least two healthy snacks between your lunch and your dinner. Although you'll think you're eating more food, this has actually been proven to work.
If your goal is to put on size and muscle, then you're going to have to consume more daily calories than your current amount. This doesn't mean eat everything in sight, but get those carbs into you. Again having a basic knowledge of food groups and their effects on the body is extremely beneficial so that you know why and when to eat them. My main daily carb sources include:
- Sweet potatoes
- Baby boiled potatoes
- Brown rice/Basmati rice
- Organic rice cakes
Where most people go wrong is eating the wrong types of carbs at the wrong times. We know carbs supply energy and some release this energy quicker than others, so it's important to know the difference and choose when to consume them accordingly.
Personally, I like to eat at least two good solid meals that include carbs before I hit the gym. I like to provide my body with the energy it's going to need for the strenuous session ahead and physiologically I just feel and look fuller after a couple of meals in me before the gym.
I start my day with carbs from porridge in the morning. Then for my next meal I will have sweet potato or brown rice, as they are slow energy releasing carbs for throughout the day and throughout my workout. For the meal immediately after my workout, I will have baby boiled white potatoes, as they are fast releasing and will replenish my depleted energy and glucose levels in the body.
Aim to eat slow releasing carbs throughout the day as they will tide you over between meals, and then use fast releasing carbs after exercise and activity.
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