The types of carbohydrate
Carbohydrates (carbs) can be separated into sugars and starches. Natural Sugars (monosaccharides) coming in forms of fruit and honey. Natural Starches (polysaccharides) coming in forms of rice, potatoes, oats and grains. There is also a third type of carb called a fibre (non-starch polysaccharide) and these can be found in leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds.
Monosaccharides- this term means that there is a short chain of carbohydrates, mono means one and saccharides are the scientific name for sugar due to this short chain of carbs the body can easily break the chain down for them to be used as energy. These monosaccharides can be found in refined sugar like, chocolate and sweets this sugar is known as Galactose that does not exist freely in nature. Not to be confused with the same as fruit because fruit is natural and the sugars that reside inside them are known as fructose, they also have a large amount of fibre. Due to fruits large amount of fibre, some sugar content can in fact pass through the digestion tract without being absorbed and be expelled from the body.
Polysaccharides- The name for these means that there is a long link of carbohydrate molecules. Poly means many and saccharide is the scientific name for sugar. These can be found in rice, potatoes, oats and grains, these carbohydrates also known as starchy carbohydrates also reside largely in, beans, peas and root vegetables (carrots, turnips, and parsnips), depending on the makeup of the carbohydrate will depend on how fast the body is able to break it down, as there are a lot of different make ups to carbohydrates they will each take different amounts of time to break down and be used as energy within the body.
Non starch polysaccharides- this type of carbohydrate is also known as fibre. Fibre comes from the cellulose of plant foods and is abundant in leafy vegetables, root vegetables and seeds, starchy carbohydrates aren’t typically absorbed by the body as out digestive tract enzymes have difficulty breaking them down.
There are three different types of carbohydrate: sugar, starch and fibre. Sugar is quickly processed in the body and can be transformed into energy relatively quickly. Starch takes longer for our bodies to break down and gives us a slower release of energy than the sugars do. Fibre is found in sugars but mainly in starchy foods, this type of carbohydrate isn’t absorbed by the body and used and used as energy like the rest of the carbohydrates, however that does not mean that is isn’t necessary to have a large amount of fibre in your diet. It is proposed through research that males should be eating around 38g a day for men and 25g a day for women. Not only does this help you to have more regular bowel movements there is research showing that it can, reduces risks of colon cancer, reduces cholesterol, reduces blood pressure and risk of heart attacks. However, too much fibre can lead to mal absorption of essential minerals such as, iron and calcium, being deficient in these can lead to muscle cramps, weak bone density and anaemia.
What happens to the carbohydrates after we have eaten them?
All of these carbohydrates with the exception of fibre, will eventually be processed from their simplest form known as glycogen. Glycogen is what our body uses as energy. Glycogen is stored within our muscles in small amounts and in our liver in larger amounts. When we use up the glycogen stores within our muscles the body will look to use the glycogen stores that are within our liver for energy. Once this has happened our bodies will look to use other sources to provide us with energy, such as breaking down fat into glucose to use as energy, this is known as lipogenesis, or breaking down muscle as glucose to use as energy, this is done through the alanine- glucose cycle.
Eating a high amount of refined carbs with a lack of fibre in them can lead to weight gain, as the carbs aren’t needed as energy the body will store them in your body and be transformed into fat, the idea of this is for it to be used by the body at a later date as energy, but due to lack of fibre the body will have more total carbs rather than if they were on a diet with a good amount of fibre.
Why do we need carbohydrates in our diets?
There are many different reasons that you should eat carbohydrates and have them in your diet. Nowadays people are scared to eat fruit because it has carbs in it and “carbs make you fat” so people try to keep away from them. Here are 4 very good reasons to incorporate carbohydrates in your diet:
- It’s a great energy source- carbohydrates primarily are a source of energy and are a great way to fuel the body, they do this very well especially when it comes to high-intensity exercise. Energy that is catabolized from glucose and muscle glycogen are what give energy, so the muscles can contract and enable other biological functions. The body’s glycogen stores are fairly limited, meaning that you should be eating carbohydrates every day in order to keep up with the demands of energy your body needs to function optimally. Carbohydrates are oxidised much more easily than any other micronutrient, meaning that it is much more easily used and broken down for energy in the body.
- It helps spare muscle- an adequate amount of carbohydrate enables you to preserve protein tissue. Normally, protein serves a vital role in tissue maintenance, repair, and growth. During periods of depleted glycogen stores, readily occurring during times of starvation or energy depletion can affect the way your body breaks down substances for energy. In that when your body is low on carbohydrates to use it will catabolise your fat cells, which sounds brilliant if you want to lose weight. In addition to this it will also break down muscle protein and actually cause you to lose muscle, this process can have a negative effect on the kidneys due to the large amounts of nitrogen that it produces.
- It’s a metabolic primer- insufficient carbohydrates in the body leads to insufficient glycogen stores, having this in your diet will cause your body to oxidise fat as a fuel source, which sounds great right? The lack of adequate by-products of glycogen breakdown produces incomplete fat breakdown with accumulation of ketone bodies. In excess ketone bodies increase body fluid acidity, this can lead to a condition called “metabolic acidosis”. This is very harmful to the body and can lead to: nausea, vomiting, fatigue and has been found to have very strong links with some cancer patients who have high acid levels in the blood.
- Carbohydrates fuel the central nervous system- the CNS requires an uninterrupted stream of carbohydrates to function properly, the body likes to use blood glucose almost extensively as its fuel. When the body is without carbohydrates for a prolonged period of time, your body adapts to start burning fat for energy instead. High fat diets also change within the muscles so that muscles use fat for energy instead, as to keep glycogen stores in the muscle within an acceptable range in the body. Your body needs to have some glycogen as, it serves as the primary fuel for nerve tissue metabolism and represents the sole energy source for red blood cells. Once your body has eaten through all of the glycogen that it has in the muscles it will look to eat into the glucose that is in the blood, leading to you being hypoglycaemic. Hypoglycaemia can lead to a lot of different things including, weakness, hunger and dizziness. This impairs athletic performance and can lead to central nervous system fatigue and sustained state of hypoglycaemia has been shown to trigger small amounts of brain damage.
Those are 4 reasons why you should be consuming carbohydrates as part of your diet. The reason people hate carbs and say they make you fat is because carbs are usually associated with cake and other goodies. These types of foods are refined and hold very low levels of dietary fibre.
Recommended intake of carbohydrates
When eating carbohydrate It is a good idea to stay away from those refined carbohydrates i.e. biscuits, cereals, breads, sweats and cakes These foods hold very little fibre and very little quality carbohydrates, and are filled with sugars such as sucrose or high-fructose corn syrup, for this reason it’s a good idea to stick to carbohydrates in the form of fruits, vegetables, oats and grains.
It is typically thought that most people in a high carbohydrate diet are obese and with this statistic matching up with the statistic that a typical American diet situates 50-60% of their diets to carbohydrates. Along with obesity being an epidemic in America, things do not board well for the carbs. The problem is what we have mentioned before, carbohydrates are associated with cake and biscuits. As with anything eating to many carbs will lead to an overspill of glycogen stores and because of this the glycogen will be esterified into fat to be used as energy at a later date, leading to weight gain. However, eating to many carbs when you eat the right carbs is difficult, due to the high amount of fibre and the lower calories that fruits and vegetables hold, they also have much better vitamins and minerals.
There is always a risk of obesity when living a setitary life style, and having poor diet habits, this doesn’t just come from the use of carbohydrates.
- Whole grains, such as whole wheat or multigrain bread, brown rice, bran cereal, and oatmeal
- Legumes are natural foods that come from plant seeds. Examples of legumes are soybeans, lentils, peas, and peanuts. Peanuts also being high in fat.
- Any and all Fruits
- Any and all vegetables
The three different types of carbohydrate are sugars (monosaccharides), starches (polysaccharides) and fibre (non-starchy polysaccharides). A lot of the time people get most of their diets from carbohydrates but because they are from refined sources leading to a lack of fibre and essential vitamins and minerals that you receive from fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Currently it is estimated that on a high carb diet most Americans get about 10-15g of fibre a day, this should be way higher at 38g for men and 25g for women.
Carbohydrates are your bodies favoured fuel source as the body finds them easier to break down for energy than it does fat or proteins. Once converted to glycogen and glucose it is the soul nutrient used to fuel the central nervous system, allowing the CNS to work much more efficiently. Glucose is the primary source of energy and it depleted though long term exercise. Only after your glycogen stores in the muscles and in the liver are depleted the body will look to pull fat out of the cells to be broken into glucose and used as energy.
Carbohydrates are great for keeping energy levels high but, like all macronutrients the consumption of too many carbohydrates can lead to them being stored as fat and weight gain. Carbohydrates being the initial port of call for energy as far as your body is concerned, keeping your glycogen stores high is ideal for keeping energy levels and performance high. Low glycogen stores that come either through starvation, diet or malnutrition is bad for the body as it can lead to hypoglycaemia and being hypoglycaemic for prolonged periods of time can lead to, hunger, dizziness, nausea, loss of performance, foggy brain and sometimes even brain damage. When taking part in a high fat diet it can lead to a condition called metabolic acidosis, where the acidity in your blood raises, this can lead to a few different problems within the body and high blood acidity has been linked with cancer. Not only does this help you to have more regular bowel movements there is research showing that it can, reduces risks of colon cancer, reduces cholesterol, and reduces blood pressure and risk of heart attacks.
A lot of research recently has suggested that a high fat diet it the way to go and high fat diets are taking the world by storm as the best thing since sliced bread. I would recommend doing your own research on the matter and coming to your own conclusion and not to be blindly lead. Plenty of people believe that carbs are the answer as plenty of people believe that high fat is the answer, whichever you choose you will have people that agree or disagree, but don’t be blindly lead by others.
I hope that you enjoyed the read xx