Who would have thought that a few molecules of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen could baffle the minds of so many people trying to maintain healthy diets? Lets start with the basics of the different type of carbohydrates that are found in food. To keep it simple, we are going to separate carbs into 3 different categories: Sugars, Starches, and Fiber. Each of them has their place in fueling your body and helping you reach specific goals.
Sugars are the most simple of the carbohydrates. All of your mono or disaccharides are going to qualify as sugars. Not only are they the most simple in their chemical structure, but it is also a much more simple process for you body to digest and utilize these types of carbs.
Sugars are very important for proper brain function since your brain really only likes to use glucose for energy. Sugars are also very important when it comes to insulin levels in your body. Insulin is the hormone that is responsible for controlling the uptake of blood sugar into muscle cells to replenish glycogen levels. Another very important effect of insulin is the increase of amino acid uptake and protein synthesis that it causes.
To put this knowledge into action, you can utilize sugars following a workout to help your body recover faster. Not only will you replenish your glycogen levels, so you have energy to workout again in the future, but it also jumpstarts the process of repairing muscle tissue by driving the building blocks into your muscles and initiating muscle synthesis.
While sugars can be included in your diet, over consuming them can have a negative impact on your weight loss goals. Insulin is also a signal for your body to store fats. It is basically an indicator that your body has enough energy for right now and should start to store the excess for later. This is why I tell most of my clients to avoid eating lots sugars and fats in the same meal.
When picking the type of sugars to include in your diet, take into consideration the fact that refined and processed sugars hit your system faster than sugars that are getting from eating fruit. For example, you wont get as much of a rush from eating an apple or banana as you would from eating cotton candy or skittles. Fruit juices are also going to spike your insulin harder than whole fruit, which generally has a fibrous structural component.
Starches are a more complex carbohydrate that are made up of chains of sugars. Since your body has to work to break them down into their smaller components before utilizing these carb sources for fuel, starches provide energy for a much longer time period. Starches also don’t create the same insulin spike that you would get from taking in a simple sugar, since you don’t get such a large increase in blood sugar all at once.
If you are looking to stay leaner while still promoting recovery and muscle growth, taking in starches around your workout will still increase insulin release. Complex carbs can extremely effective at promoting higher energy levels during your workouts when eaten about an hour prior to activity. They are also great for recovery when you consume them about an hour after you ingest the simple sugars that followed your workout. The continuous release of sugars into your blood stream that result from the breakdown of complex carbs will help to keep your insulin levels at a state that continues to allow for recovery over the time period that your body is working to digest the starch. Essentially, the sugars jump start the recovery process and the starches keep it going.
Over-consuming complex carbs can have similar effects to over-consuming sugars. They will essentially put your body in storing mode, so if you are looking to cut weight or body fat, make sure you have an idea of how many complex carbs your body can handle. Some great sources of complex carbohydrates are potatoes, rice, pasta, beans, and quinoa. Most fruit also contain starches.
Fiber is complex carbohydrate that your body can’t break down into sugars to absorb. You need fiber in your diet to regulate your digestive tract by keeping everything moving. There are two different types of fiber; soluble and insoluble:
Soluble fiber technically can provide calories for your body, but is not absorbed as a carbohydrate. Once soluble fiber makes its way into the large intestine, your body’s natural bacteria begin to work on it and break it down, to an extent, into short chain fatty acids, which could then be absorbed by the body. Technically soluble fiber does have a net caloric value, but keep in mind that your bacteria may not have time to break down all of the soluble fiber you digest. Insoluble fiber on the other hand is roughage that cannot be broken down or absorbed at all by the body. This helps to scrape any buildup off of intestinal walls and ensures that all of the food you take in makes its way to the end of your digestive tract.
Fiber can be used throughout the day to help keep you full and regulate your digestive system. It also helps to slow down the rate at which sugars are absorbed and balances your insulin levels throughout the day and also helps to lower cholesterol. Fiber is extremely beneficial for everyone, but really helps people who are on a cutting diet to maintain a sense of fullness with each meal. Fiber is found in tons of different vegetables, bran, oatmeal, beans, nuts, fruit skins and seeds.
Carbohydrates are your friend if consumed correctly and your foe when they are over-consumed. Take this breakdown of carbs and apply to your nutrition based on what your goals are. If you need help figuring out how to do that, Contact Me!