The topic of carbohydrates can be very confusing, partly because of many misconceptions surrounding it. This is why I chose to talk to you about them this month. I would like to clarify a few key points based on this wide subject.
The information you find about carbohydrates depends on what sources you have gathered information from. There are loads of books, articles and blog’s based solely on this subject. Schools of thought vary greatly. For example, people want to know the number of carbohydrates you should eat per day. Popular answers to this question vary from 10 grams to 300 grams. Why do these numbers vary so greatly?
It’s not about a number, it’s about what foods are best for you!
I believe that the question people ask regarding carbohydrates should not be about how many we should “count” per day, but we should be learning to be in tune with how our bodies react to different sources of carbohydrates. Some people can handle more of them than others depending on their metabolic type. The side effects that come from eating certain foods are all in sync with how your body processes them. Obviously, we are all different!
I know this subject has been covered before but I feel it is very important to clarify certain points when the subject of proper diet arises. None of us are created equal. Therefore, paying attention to how we feel after eating a meal is what it really comes down to. Within 30 to 60 minutes, your body will tell you if you have eaten the proper ratios of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats for your particular body.
For example: You’ve enjoyed a bowl of pasta for dinner along with three or four pieces of soft bread and a can of soda. Have you ever experienced feeling completely drained, like you need a nap after consuming a meal like this? I have, and it’s not a good side effect. This is your body sending you a negative signal. That meal contained a large amount of carbohydrates, and they robbed you of energy.
Trying to compensate for our bad food choices
Large amounts of simple carbohydrates that compose a meal such as this cause the pancreas to go into defense mode by secreting large amounts of insulin in attempt to dilute the carbohydrates you have ingested. This insulin secretion rapidly sends blood sugar levels upward causing you to crash which is followed by many negative responses. Such as, headaches, anxiety, jumpy mind (ADHD) behavior, tired but wired, jittery feeling, an inability to focus, etc.
Unfortunately, many people take a short cut to obtain energy the wrong way after it has been drained because of poor dietary choices. Consuming a meal made up of empty carbohydrates may leave most feeling drowsy and lethargic soon after. Trying to make up for it, they make another detrimental decision to get more energy by consuming energy drinks that are high in carbohydrates, sugar, and caffeine. This creates a vicious cycle causing your energy levels to have a yo-yo effect all day.
The Glycemic Index (GI) was designed to easily identify simple and complex carbohydrates. The difference between the two is that simple carbohydrates will break down more quickly than complex carbohydrates. An 8oz glass of orange juice, for example, contains 25 grams of of carbohydrates. This compares to a whole grain slice of bread which has approximately 15 grams. Orange Juice is considered a simple carbohydrate because it breaks down faster into glycogen due to its composition of sugars, no protein and no fats. On the other hand, the slice of whole bread contains about 5 grams of protein and sometimes few grams of fat, making the conversion into glycogen slower.
Beware of Gluten free foods
Gluten is a composite found in foods processed from wheat and related grains. More and more people are becoming aware of gluten intolerance and how it is affected by diseases such as celiac disease–an autoimmune disorder of the small intestine–which causes your body to reject foods that contain gluten.
Scientific studies have shown that one of the reasons that most of the wheat’s used to make bread, pasta, etc. comes from a limited 6-8 kinds of wheat families. These numbers have reduced from 150+ than what they were 100 years ago, which is a whole other topic. Gluten-free foods obviously do not have wheat, but most of them are very high in carbohydrates and sugar. Take time to read the labels! Just because it is gluten free doesn’t mean it holds nutritious value.
Loading up on carbohydrates the day before an endurance race
Skeletal muscles and the liver are the 2 chief storage facilities for glycogen. Approximately 8-10% of the liver’s weight is stored glycogen, although the amount will be less in the case of an inflamed, fatty, or dysfunctional liver. waking up in the middle of the night may be an issue of the liver because there is not enough glycogen stored to last them through the night.
Approximately 1-2% of your muscle mass is glycogen. By volume, the skeletal muscles store two times as much glycogen as does the liver. This depends on how much muscle mass the person has and how often they exercise. Whereas the average liver holds 70grams of glycogen, a healthy liver can store up to 100-120 grams of glycogen. Skeletal muscles will store up to two times as much, 240grams, when also healthy. The average person’s muscles holds 130 grams of glycogen.
If your are working out 4-5 times per week for 45-60 min per work out, and have the recommended body mass per your height and age, you can eat more carbohydrates, because your ability to burn them up will be much higher and will not cause them to be stored as fat. Your performance, recovery and progress to better muscle mass and lower body fat percentage are very good guide lines to tell you if you are providing your body with the proper ratios of carbs, proteins and fats, to create the optimum fuel to perform your daily activities including sleeping 8 hours per night.
Keep a food diary for 7-10 days to make a basic observation of your energy levels after your eat. Most importantly, see if you have mood swings post-meal. This is a signal that you did not have the proper nutrients in your meal to balance your body.
Think out of the box when you prepare your meals! Rather than consuming nutrient empty options such as cereals and muffins for breakfast, eat things that you would eat for dinner. Things like soups, salads with chicken or fish, etc. will give you the fuel that you need to feel your best throughout the day. Filling up on empty carbohydrates first thing in the morning is a sure way to be drowsy and starve your organs of the nourishment they need to function properly and keep you going. Eating a dense nutrient-rich breakfast as the first meal of your day should be common sense, and I’m a firm believer in this practice.
Check the GI chart to learn about simple and complex carbohydrates and reduce the intake of simple carbohydrates per meal.
Lastly, try your best to make good diet choices over the holidays! Baked goods and candies this time of year can be very tempting. Stay focused on what you have to do for yourself to stay healthy and maintain your energy! Contact us with any questions! We are happy to help you in any way we can.
“Keep on moving”
Luis Ponce Sr.