As we know we have three sources of energy, carbohydrates, fat and protein. Many of us understand the importance that protein plays in our daily food intake and with exercise, as well as the importance of burning fat as an energy source for fat loss, but where do carbohydrates fit into all of this? It is a common misconception that carbohydrates because they can store as fat if not used are the enemy. In fact, they are our friend. Here's 5 simple reasons why.
1) Carbohydrates are our main source of energy
Carbohydrates are our first and main source of energy. This doesn't just go for exercise, or movements but also for our brain. Carbs are the only source of energy that can fuel our brain's appropriately. If your carbs are low, you may feel slight dizziness, headaches and lethargy as a result. If you are not getting the right amount of carbs in your daily food intake your body will enter a state of Ketosis. This is the process by which your body starts to use fat as its predominant energy source, rather than carbs.
Ketosis is not maintainable for long periods without doing serious damage to your body. However, decreasing your carb intake to a level to which you are not overconsuming carb is a very achievable way to control your weight and increase your physical fitness, energy and general wellbeing. One way to do this is to add in a simple accelerator day in your week as a way to promote fat burning. This is a day where you simply drop your carb intake to 30-40g for the day. Just remember to drink a little extra water and add a little extra salt to your food to avoid dehydration.
2) Carbohydrates help you build muscle.
Carbs are the predominant fuel burned during a weights session. Have you ever done a weights session where you haven't eaten for a while beforehand and everything you lift is feeling heavy? That's due to carbs not being used as the predominant fuel source for the explosive short duration movements that occurs when we lift weights. Carbs indirectly affect your ability to build lean muscle. If you are not eating the amount of carbs you've been given in your macronutrients, you may not be able to work at an intensity high enough to build muscle. We know the more lean muscle you have the more energy you burn!
3) Carbs help your body release important hormones:
Carbs help to release two important hormones that are involved in fat burning and metabolism. The first is leptin. Leptin is the fat burning hormone. When carbohydrate levels are too low or decrease consistently in the body, leptin levels become lower too. Due to the decrease in leptin this decreases our body's ability to burn stored fat.
The second hormone is the thyroid hormone. Our thyroid hormone is responsible for controlling our metabolism. Low carb diets decrease the levels of thyroid hormone in the body, which slows our metabolism and fat burning.
4) Carbs contain dietary fibre:
Fibre is the main nutrient that is essential for maintaining bowel health. Many carbs contain fibre. Examples include beans, oats, fruit and vegetables, brown rice, wholemeal/wholegrain breads & pastas.
5) Carbs are good if you eat the right type and the right amount.
Poor choice carbs are foods we want to avoid for fat loss. They contain high amount of carbs and sugars along with minimal levels of vitamins and minerals. They contain no nutritional value and are seen as calorie dense and not nutrient dense foods. Examples include sugars, white bread/wraps, dried fruit & fruit juice, soft drinks, flavoured iced teas, lollies (added sugar or not), chocolate, cakes, potato chips, hot chips, take away buns and muffins.
Moderate choice carbs should include 2-3 servings per day. These foods are high in carbs and low in fat. They generally have a better option available. Example is something simple such as sweet potato rather than white potato due to sweet potato being lower GI. Other examples of moderate choice carbs include. Rice cakes/corn thins, Brown rice, quinoa, couscous, any beans, wholemeal grains/wraps/pasta, oats, bananas, apples, potatoes (sweet and regular) etc.
Best choice carbs: Are foods such as fruits and vegetables. General rule of thumb with green vegetables is "green is go" or "green is lean". As well as green vegetables we recommend that a variety of fruits and vegetables be consumed during the day to get the intake of all the different vitamins and minerals for different coloured foods. Include 5 servings per day.
*Disclaimer: Individual results vary based on agreed goals. Click here for details.