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It's All About The Carbs!

We’ve all been there. Maybe it started as a conversation with your friends over dinner, or maybe you heard about the dangers of sugar on a Channel 4 documentary presented by a TV personality grossly underqualified to discuss nutrition

Maybe you experienced it in your home as your beloved 18-year old pursued a leaner physique or maybe you gave it a go yourself. Either way, 99% of us will know that low carb believer who raises an eyebrow from their castle of avocados and cashews as you tuck in to your cinnamon roll!

Will I struggle to maintain a healthy and balanced lifestyle if I eat carbohydrates at every meal? Should I consider completely removing all carbohydrate sources from my diet? And are they really forged from the depths of Satan’s lair with the sole purpose of adding inches to your waistline?

Thankfully, the answers to these questions is NO! , okay granted I got a little bit carried away at the end there, but you get my point ....


Carbohydrate 101

Carbohydrates can be characterized by number of monosaccharide or sugar units they contain. Simple sugars such as the kind you might add to your morning coffee or use to bake delicious treats are made up of 2 units and are thus known as disaccharides.  This opposes to starches and fibres which are typically longer chains containing 10+ sugar units

Carbohydrates are vital for many bodily processes; a selection of these include:

Energy In a healthy and balanced diet glucose serves as the primary energy supply for the brain, central nervous system and your muscles. Low intakes can make you feel lethargic and may impair not only physical but also mental performance

Digestive System Health Insoluble fibres found in wholegrain foods are crucial for maintaining a healthy GI tract and can help promote regular bowel movement

Dyslipidemia Sufficient intake of the soluble fibres found in fruits and vegetables can regulate cholesterol levels and thus decrease the risk of heart diseases


How Much Carbohydrate Do I Need?

There are a great many of factors that influence your carbohydrate requirements, for now I will only focus on how requirements are dependent upon exercise and physical activity. But before I outline some suggested carbohydrate intake guidelines, let me explain the basics behind these suggestions

As mentioned above the primary role of carbohydrates in the diet is to fuel the brain, nervous system and your muscles. Inactive individuals who have sedentary jobs may not need to consume large amounts of carbohydrate to keep their brains ticking and blood sugar levels from dropping. On other hand those who are active in their leisure and work time do require more carbohydrates to fuel their busy lifestyle!

It’s important to know that different types of exercise require more carbohydrates than others and this is dependent on several factors, including:

Exercise Duration As exercise duration increases the bodies primary fuel shifts from carbohydrate to fat. Short bursts of exercise rely on carbohydrate stores

Exercise Intensity In general terms, high intensity exercise requires more carbohydrate compared with lower intensity exercise

Type of Exercise Anaerobic exercise,which is high intensity training lasting less than 30 seconds, increases the need for carbohydrate as a primary fuel

Think of your body as a car and carbohydrates as the fuel. If you drive your car very fast on a regular basis you will need to consume more fuel to keep the engine working

So, whilst individual requirments differ some rough guidelines are as follows:

Weight Management 50% of total caloric intake, have a chat with any member of your LED fitness team to help you with this one!

Strength 5 to 8g per kg of bodyweight

Endurance 5 to 12g per kg of bodyweight

One of my favourite things to talk about - other than carbohydrates and Game of Thrones -  is myself, so let’s use me as an example. 290g per day would be ample if my goal was to manage my bodyweight whilst leading a healthy lifestyle. Since endurance performance is currently my main goal it is recommended that I should consume between 410g - 985g of Carbohydrate daily. But, during periods where strength is the priority  - throwback to August 2016 where I came 9th at Ottery St Mary’s Strongest Man - I should limit my intake to 410g – 655g per day


Can I Consume Too Much Carbohydrate?

Unlike proteins our bodies can store some carbohydrate in the form of glycogen in your muscles and liver. However, these stores are limited with a capacity of approximately 375g in muscles and 100g in the liver depending on your lean body mass. If intake exceeds this then excess carbohydrate must be stored elsewhere, with body fat cells being the answer

Diets that are extremely high in carbohydrates may limit intake of fat. Fat has many important roles in good nutrition  - that's a whole other blog!  - and so this style of dieting should be avoided


What Happens if I Don’t Eat Enough Carbohydrate?

A common symptom of diets that are extremely deficient in carbohydrates is low blood sugar levels, known as hypoglycaemia. Hypoglycaemia can impair brain function resulting in light headed feelings, nausea and confusion; it is crucial that we avoid this

Another consequence of low carbohydrate intakes is an increase in gluconeogenesis to stabilize blood sugar levels. As discussed in other blogs, gluconeogenesis allows your body to convert stored proteins - the lean tissue mass - in to carbohydrate. This is clearly not a suitable long term weight loss approach because we want to ensure lean mass stays high whilst fat weight decreases


What Should I Eat?

Starchy carbohydrates such as wholegrains are great sources that should be consumed alongside green leafy vegetables and fruit. The occasional high sugar food such as a slice of cake at a birthday party is perfectly acceptable, but should not be consumed on a regular basis

So I hope this has helped you understand why carbohydrates are important for a healthy and balanced lifestyle and have a better insight in to how much you require for your goals. Please keep in mind that you should consult your GP before making any significant changes to your intake. If you would like to know more about carbohydrates please contact us HERE