We all talk about carbs, but do we actually know what they are and what they do in our bodies? How does the carbs react in our bodies and how does our bodies respond to it? Let’s have a closer look at the little bastards…
Carbs are a collective name for all types of sugars; actual sugar, starch, glycogen and fibre. Fibre is the only one of these that doesn’t really provide your body with any energy, whilst the three others have plenty of energy (also known as calories – the little creatures who live in you closet and carefully sew your clothes a little smaller every night). What we call sugar is either simple or double sugars that are found in our food in their natural form.
Starch is how the plants store sugar and is chains from lots and lots of simple sugar – glucose. Animals (and therefore also humans since that’s all we are) store sugar (in the form of glycogen) in their muscles and liver (the bigger the muscles, the more storage). Just like in the plants with starch, glycogen is also put together from a chain of glucose. The storage space in your muscles and liver is however very, very small, because every mammal’s most important energy storage is (yes, you guessed it) F-A-T! That’s why we can store unlimited amounts of fat, while there’s only room for about 600grams of carbs in an average grown human being. And many of us know that we can store kilos and kilos and kilos of fat, right?
But wait, there’s more. Carbs doesn’t just disappear out of your system when your liver and muscles are full, they head to the after-party (the hips, thighs, butt, bingo wings, stomach and so on) and gets stored as, yep that’s right, fat. Surprised? You eat carbs and think you’re fine, but it secretly turns into fat after you eat it?? Let’s have a closer look.
Starch is found in large amounts in grain (and grain products), potatoes and other root vegetables. When this is eaten and broken down in your intestine, glucose enters the blood stream. This happens quickly (the simples the carb, the faster it happens) and it causes a peak in your blood sugar levels (and you will feel great). The carbs are used instantly for energy and your body (the pancreas) releases insulin (insulin is not your friend when it comes to fat loss)into the blood stream to help glucose (the sugar) enter into your cells to be used as energy. If there is more glucose available after a meal than you need for energy (this happens quite often in the world today) the insulin drives the glucose straight to the muscles/liver or the after-party where the glucose is simply converted into fat and is stored in the fat cells where there is always room for more (like any other typical after-party really!)!
Foods with lots of carbohydrates, the sweeter the worse, will have your blood sugar levels going nuts, peaking in one second and then coming crashing down not long after, leaving you craving for more carbohydrate rich foods. And this will happen again and again and again and you will never get to those fat stores to burn any of the excess energy and the storage will only get bigger and bigger.
That’s why eating excess carbohydrates does not do any good if you are trying to lose a few kilos or trying to avoid putting on any. Carbs are no good if you are trying to keep your blood sugar levels (and energy levels) stabile either.
So, how many carbs do you need in a day? In principle, we actually don’t need any. Because we are able to produce enough glucose in your bodies to cover our cell’s needs. If we cut out all carbs (hard and incredibly boring) the body will automatically produce 30-40grams of glucose daily from protein (amino acids) and fat (glycerol). But, you don’t need to put your body through this (and it’s a lot more fun eating some carbs instead of producing them…) you should eat at least 50-70grams of carbs a day to make sure you get enough (depending on your body size, body type, daily activity levels and so on).
Not all carbs are equal though (yesterday I chose to buy a block of chocolate with 85% cocoa that contained 13.7grams of sugar in the whole block. I could’ve chosen a milk chocolate with rocky road flavours that contained 112grams of sugar in the whole block.. So if you want to indulge, indulge wisely!) and some are better than others. I would go for vegetables, nuts, berries, fruit, greek yoghurt, cheese, pulses and some whole grains. If you’re having these with your high fat and moderate protein meals, your blood sugar levels will be nice and low anyway, ensure you won’t be storing the carbs as fat and keeping your energy levels stabile throughout the day.
We know that what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. So in the end of the day, it’s really up to you what you would like to eat and check how it makes you feel. If it makes you feel good, it can’t be that bad for you, right? I just know a little carbs and a lottle fat makes me feel invincible 🙂
Information from Dr. S. Hexeberg ‘The Scandinavian Diet’