Nutrition

The Low Carbohydrate Myth?

hardgainersall

I’m sure that we all remember the arrival of the Atkins Diet where everyone was eating the burger and not the bun. In short carbohydrates were classed as the ‘new evil’ in our life.

I still get clients paying me to put them on ‘my low carbohydrate diet’. My reply every time is that “I don’t have a low carb diet”. In fact the Fat Loss Foundation – Diets Done For You are rich in energy giving carbohydrates.

Most will tell you that there are 2 carbohydrates forms, and to some degree that is true and they come as:

  • Simple Carbohydrates e.g. chocolates, sweets, biscuits, cakes...simple sugars etc
  • Starchy (Complex) Carbohydrates e.g. mainly listed as - pasta, rice, bread, white potato, rice cakes etc 

Now, there is another form of complex carbohydrate that’s not regularly listed, and they are –

  • Fibrous (Complex) Carbohydrates, are extensively used in all my diet and lifestyle plans.

Fibrous Carbohydrates consist mainly of fresh green and root vegetables (mainly cruciferous forms e.g. those that grow on stalks e.g. broccoli or cauliflower) and you can eat these in unlimited quantities.

So enough (to some degree) with the carb-bashing, we can still enjoy some of every type, simple or starchy but only at the right times (fibrous, no problems enjoy them all the time).

Carbohydrates are vital in the sportsperson’s diet, and many of us feel that we can over-eat them like an Olympic athlete due to the fact that we also to some degree workout. So let’s look at what’s good and what’s not so good and try and answer The Carbohydrate Question’.

Do carbohydrates make you fat?

Carbohydrates don’t intrinsically make you fat, excess calories make you fat. Let’s face it any excess food intake is going to do that. Our body will quite easily convert most over-eaten foodstuffs into body fat.

So just what is the difference between simple, starchy and fibrous carbohydrates?

Our muscles don’t care what type of carbohydrates we get, to them there is no difference. It could be a chocolate bar, banana, pasta or broccoli they all have a similar biochemical structure.

Sugary and starchy carbohydrates both offer very similar calorie masses (around 16 calories per 5grams/teaspoon) and to our body they still get converted and stored as glycogen (the fuel that sugars covert into and deposit in our muscles, liver and bloodstream for energy).

The difference between simple and complex carbohydrates is the number of bonds linked to the molecule and their ability to convert into one another.

What I mean by this is that sugars convert into starches and vice versa due to the timing of eating it. I’m sure that we’ve all eaten a slightly ‘green’ unripe banana, well that is more starchy than an older banana which will be sweeter due to the conversion of starch to sugar over time.

What we need to know for fat loss is the key difference between sugars and starches, and this is where they can affect whether you gain or lose body fat.

Importantly a calorie is NOT a calorie really.

Yes two different foods can have the same amount of calories, but it is the type of food that you are consuming that will govern whether you gain or lose fat.

Yes some sugars (especially fructose/fruit sugars) and some starches can be beneficial to health, and the key here is its nutritional value. For example freshly squeezed grapefruit juice is low in fat, sodium and contains loads of vitamin A, C, folate and potassium.

Whereas the sugars in a can of fizzy soda (and many these days they are branded ‘low’ or ‘no sugar’!

But check on the can for just how many artificial sweeteners there are in it (They are far worse than natural cane sugar!), and will be devoid or empty of any nutritional value, vitamins or minerals. In fact the only thing it will do is spike you blood sugar levels and force insulin secretion to bring it back down and, in-turn storing more body fat!

The simple key to all this is:

  • Limit starchy carbohydrate intake. We tend to over-eat on these regularly and it is a big culprit to body fat storage. If you want pasta, rice or potatoes with a meal just make sure that you keep the quantity low.

  • Stick to eating unlimited amounts of fibrous carbohydrates as they contain water, muscle building properties (Indole 3 Carbinol) and are rich in antioxidants.
 

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