Carbs or no Carbs?

Summer is finally here! Woo Hoo! So with more reasons to strip off into summer clothing and dare I say bikinis, most of us try our best to exercise more and eat less. In a last minute attempt to shed those extra pounds, the first type of food people tend to cut out is carbohydrates. The number of times I’ve heard my friends say: “I’ve been really good this week I’ve eaten hardly any carbs!” Yes some carbohydrates can cause weight gain, but so can too much fat, or anything else if you eat too much of it. In fact if you ask anyone in the health and fitness industry, they will tell you that eating carbohydrates is vital for giving our bodies energy.

The body breaks down carbohydrates and turns them into glucose which then travels through the bloodstream. Glucose is the sugar that our body cells use for energy.  We cannot make glucose from other nutrients, so it is essential to eat carbohydrates.

Hypoglycaemia, a condition which is brought about by a lack of sugar in the bloodstream, can cause dizziness, confusion, headaches, lethargy, fatigue & even fainting. Carbohydrates are the main energy source for our body, creating the energy that gets used first (before the energy produced by protein and fat). In fact it is recommended by the “NHS Eatwell Plate” that at least one third of our energy intake should come from carbohydrates and at least another third should come from fruit and veg. Check out:

… So the real question is: How do we eat carbohydrates without putting on the pounds?

Well as some of you may know, foods containing carbohydrates have something called a Glycaemic Index (GI).
GI provides a measure of how quickly blood sugar levels rise after eating a particular type of food. Different foods have different GIs and generally the ones we need to eat are those with a low GI. Most, but not all, foods on the lower end of the GI scale, tend to be healthier, nutrient-rich, less processed, and higher in fibre – such as whole fruits, vegetables, grains and beans. Foods classifiedwith a high GI such as white bread, corn syrup and many cereals, break down quickly and cause a spike in glucose levels (pure glucose itself has the highest GI measure of all at 100).

Consuming high GI foods results in a quick release of insulin which will give you an immediate burst of energy, but this energy runs out quickly and can cause you to become tired and hungry; so you will then want to eat more carbohydrates to keep you going, which is counter-productive! Too much high GI food can break down into excessive glucose, creating more energy than your muscles can burn up. Your body will then store this excess glucose as fat. Eventually, consuming too many high GI foods can lead to type two diabetes. Low GI foods however, like yummy sweet potato or natural porridge oats for breakfast, release energy more slowly. This keeps you fuller and energised for longer, minimising fatigue and hunger, so you’ll feel better and find that it’s easier to lose weight and keep your weight down. Think of it like a Duracell battery in an appliance – after all food is just a fuel.

So next time you think about skipping carbs completely, maybe just try a low GI carbohydrate instead. Soya bread, broccoli, sweet potato and raw carrots are some of my favourites, but you can find complete lists of low GI foods in books and all over ‘Google’. But be careful which sources you follow since recognised health organisations are always best. So have a great summer eating at least some carbohydrates – just make sure they are the low GI kind!
Happy Munching!

By Louise Ann Munro (Personal Trainer) ACTivation Personal Training & Nutrition

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