As you may already know, this month we’ve been taking a micro look at the macronutrients. So far, we have looked at dietary fats, protein and good foods sources of these macros. Previously, I mentioned that protein has recently been getting a bit of a bad rapt, but that’s nothing compared to the press the macronutrient carbohydrate have always gotten.

Carbs, carbohydrates, or CHO, has long be touted as the reason we are all fat. Want to lose weight? Cut out carbs. Want clear skin? Cut out carbs. Want to bulk up at the gym? Cut out carbs. But what if I told you that this simply isn’t true? Sometimes it feels as though carbs are the bane of our existence, the scape goat for all the wrongs in the world. But that’s just not the truth.

What are carbs?

When most of us think about the macronutrient carbohydrates, we think about big starchy carbs. We think about bread, pasta, rice, even sweet treats like cakes and cookies. Carbohydrates are more than juts big, stodgy foods.

The macronutrient carbohydrates are divided into two categories: simple, and complex. Simple carbohydrates are the ones that many of us crave. They give us quick hits of energy, but just as quickly leave us feeling flat. They tend to spike our blood sugar levels, and overreliance on this type of carb can lead to health complications like Metabolic Syndrome and Diabetes Type 2. Simple carbohydrates are our mono- and disaccharide, glucose, fructose, maltose, lactose, sucrose, and galactose. They are broken down quickly and easily into the simplest forms of sugar in the body.

Complex carbohydrates are the carbs with a lower glycaemic index. These carbs give us a more even and sustained energy release; the slow burn if you will. Their sustained energy release is due to the fact they are more slowly digested, broken down, and absorbed by the body.  Complex carbohydrates also help with our sense of satiety and fullness, and elimination, due to having a higher fibre content.

Why we need them?

Because they are tasty! Well, that’s not really the answer but a lot of the clients I work with do love their carbs!

As already mentioned, Carbohydrates are a source of ‘energy’. Our bodies turn all carbs, both simple and complex, into glucose which, ultimately gives us energy.

Not only does our body use carbs to fuel our muscles, but carbohydrate is the brain’s number one choice for fuel. Given the opportunity, our brains prefer to use glucose (carbohydrates). Therefore, when we skip a meal, or hit 3:30tisis, we can start to experience mood changes, irritability, poor memory, and decreased concentration; it’s because our brain is starving for fuel!

How much do we need?

When we look at our diet  for adequate CHO intake, it’s important to understand that, unlike the other two macronutrients which have RDIs either in g/kg of body weight (protein) (1), or as g/day (fat)(2), the Nutrient Reference Value (NRV) does not have RDIs for CHO (3). Instead, CHO intake is recommended as percentage of the daily kilojoule intake and is in relationship with fats and protein; this is referred to as the AMDR. The AMDR has set the macronutrient balance at 45-65% carbohydrate (4).

Choose your CHO

We need the macronutrient carbohydrate in our diets! We also need to ensure we are choosing the best sources of carbohydrate for our body’s goals and needs. Our wholefoods fruits, vegetables and grains provide us with the best sources of carbohydrate; these sources give us the added benefits of vitamins, mineral and fibre. Yes, foods like candy bars, soft drinks and sweet treats are also packed with carbohydrates, but they won’t give you as much bang for your buck in terms of nutrient values. Stick to wholefood sources!

Need help?

If you’ve been struggling to work out your carb requirements, if you’re an athlete who isn’t sure if you should be carb loading, or if you think carbs are the reason you can’t shift that last kilo – get in touch. You can make an appointment to see me here.

REFERENCES

  • 1. NHMRC. (2014) Protein. Canberra: National Health and Medical Research Council. Retrieved from https://www.nrv.gov.au/nutrients/protein 

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