Carbs - Friend or Foe

 Banana Bread made by @thestrengthtemple

Banana Bread made by @thestrengthtemple

Anything that makes me feel good and helps me sleep is most definitely a FRIEND!

A knife can be used to either cause harm (bad) , or slice up a pizza (good) - likewise, Carbohydrates can either be abused, which will in turn cause you to be unhealthy and imbalanced, or not abused, and be strong, lean and beast like.

So before I go into why and how you can use carbohydrates to your advantage, I want to just explain what a carbohydrate is. Education is the best motivation, if you know the why and the how, you’ll 9 times out of 10 make the right choice.

Carbo-Hydr-Ate

Carbon, Hydrogen and Oxygen. That’s it. I feel like when you see something in it’s chemical uniform it becomes so much less 'mean'. Everything around us is a chemical, so as I said earlier there is no good, no bad (it’s all very buddhist really).

A carbohydrate is one of the three main compounds of food - called Macronutrients. The other two are called Protein and Fat.

When you eat carbs, your body turns those carbs into glucose via various biochemical processes. Glucose is then transported to various organs to be used as energy. Some of that excess glucose is then stored as glycogen within the liver and muscles to provide further energy in times of need. 

There are three types of Carbohydrates:

Monosaccharides - these guys are often called simple carbs because they have a simple structure, hence the name ‘mono’ meaning one and ‘saccharide' meaning sugar. Examples of monosaccharides come from glucose, fructose and galactose - a good example of a food with high monosaccharide content is honey. Sweet, sweet, honey.

Oligosaccharides - contain many monosaccharides linked together in chain-like structures. 

Polysaccharides - contain 10 or more monosaccharides - poly being the greek word for ‘many’.

Both Poly and Oligo are also known as complex carbohydrates - complex because they take a little longer for the body to break down. Oligosaccharides are one of the components of fibre found in plants. Our bodies are able to partially break down the Oligosaccharide into glucose, leaving the fibrous, indigestible parts behind - this is good for the gut. Foods like Broccoli, asparagus, whole grains etc all contain complex carbohydrates.

Either way, all forms of carbs are broken down into either glucose for energy, or are left indigested, providing us with fibre (keeping us regular).

Do Carbs make you Fat?

Well here’s the thing, eat too much protein and you’ll get fat. Eat too much lettuce and you’ll get fat - it would take you a while, and you’d have to be extremely disciplined (bordering on crazy) to consume enough lettuce to get you there, but it’s totally possible, because you can’t look beyond caloric expenditure and Macronutrient balance. 

The bottom line is that ANYTHING in excess will make you fat. 

However, here’s something even more interesting, while excess glucose can be stored in the body as fat, it’s important to note that carbohydrate isn’t stored as body fat, as efficiently as dietary fat.*

I’m going to say that again;

Carbs, aren’t stored in the body, as efficiently as dietary fat.

So that essentially means that coconut oil, if consumed excessively, could make you fatter, than if you consumed excessive amounts of potato.

In conclusion, carbs could make you fat, but not as easily as you think, and also not as quickly as dietary fat.

Do carbs make you awesome?

In short, Yes.

1. Carbs stimulate the production of serotonin. One of the best neurotransmitters, like, ever (ok so they’re all good). Serotonin effects mood (in particular elevated mood), sleep, appetite and a few other processes.

Ever tried a low carb diet and had trouble sleeping? It can very often be due to a drop in the production of both tryptophan and serotonin. 

Where does the concept of a carb coma come from? Serotonin of course, so forget what ‘they’ told you, eat your carbs at night for a better sleep to improve your awesomeness levels.

2. Support Digestion. As mentioned earlier complex carbs break down into glucose and fibre. That fibre is incredibly important for optimal gut health, metabolism and detoxification. Fibrous veggies and fruits even are not to be feared, they will support you body to function more efficiently (and of course, keep you lean).

3. Build those buns with glycogen. It’s not just protein that helps to build muscle tissue! When you eat carbs some of the glucose is converted into glycogen which is then stored in the liver and muscles. When you train weights (properly, not in a 2lb tricep kick back kind of way) you drain those muscle glycogen stores. Eating carbs around workouts and with protein is the optimal way to ensure the growth of your muscles. Ladies, remember not to be afraid of muscle growth. The more muscle you have, the higher your your basal metabolic rate is. This means you can consume more calories on a daily basis to maintain a healthy body composition. Muscles also create that ‘tone’ you keep asking your trainer for… 

In conclusion, carbs do make you awesome and they can certainly be your friend.

*1. T J HortonH Drogues, A Brachey, G W ReedJ C Peters, and J O Hill Fat and carbohydrate overfeeding in humans: different effects on energy storage.