Hold, up. Wait a minute. You don’t have to have a Bachelor’s in Nutrition, or even have completed high school PE/H/PD to know that there’s no such thing as the fourth macronutrient. Have I lost my mind? Am I trying to pull a fast one over the long-standing knowledge and understanding of science? Is this a sales gimmick? Nope. Not at all.

So far this month we’ve looked at fats, protein and carbohydrates. I’m sure you’re sitting there going, what is she on about? I’m going to introduce to you what I call the fourth macronutrient… starchy carbs.

Simple or complex

Now, as you may recall all carbohydrates, be they starchy or non-starchy, are carbs. They all get broken down by our body into simple carbohydrates . These are then used as fuel for our muscles and our brain. They are energy providers.

Remember also how we looked at simple carbohydrates are quick acting, but also quick to burn out fuel. Whereas complex carbohydrates give us a slow burn energy, help us feel fuller for longer, and give us a fibre boost.

What is a starchy carb?

Starchy carbs are the carbohydrate foods that a lot of people think of as ‘bad’. When we talk about starchy carbs we are talking about grains and seeds. This includes: wheat, spelt, rye, barley, oats, rice, millet, corn, amaranth, buckwheat and quinoa. And, whilst most vegetables are non-starchy, some veggies, such as sweet corn, potato, sweet potato, and pumpkin are considered starchy carbs.

Why so special?

Whilst all wholefood sources of carbohydrates are packed with a variety or vitamins and minerals, the main difference between a starchy and non-starchy carb is the amount of carbohydrate in the food per 100g. The Johns Hopkins Centre for Diabetes identifies a starchy carb as being a vegetable (or whole food) that contains 15 grams of carbohydrate per ½ cup of cooked food (that’s cooked, not raw or dry weight). A non-starchy carb source will have less than 15 grams of carbohydrate per ½ cooked cup.

Why I call them the fourth macronutrient.

I love working with athletes, weight loss and body composition clients; I also love working with clients with Auto immune concerns. These types of clients usually require a well thought out approach to nutrient. When I talk about nutrition, I’m not just referring to what they are eating, but also when.

With any client looking at improving their body composition, starchy carbs are best eaten around training and exercise. I will be posting on the importance of fuel timing at a later point, but essentially, your body is primed to use fuel you give it after training and exercise, so this is the best time to give it the bread, pasta, potato, pumpkin that you love – without feeling like you’re undoing your hard work.

NEED Help?

So this week I challenge you to have a look at how much of your carb intake is from the fourth macronutrient category. Are you a pasta loving, bread chomping, sweet potato smashing fiend? If you want to dive a lil deeper into understanding how your body uses your fuel for exercise, training, and getting everything done – reach out to me here for your one on one consult.


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