What you should know about carbs
Ahhh the dreaded carbohydrate! Many of us have a negative image of carbohydrates when it comes to our health, although they are really just as important as protein. In fact, your body can’t break down protein without carbohydrates.
Carbs: The pros and cons
Carbohydrates are a vital fuel source for physical activity, especially high intensity training. However, unlike fat, your body cannot store carbs in large quantities. The carb supply that builds up in your liver or musculature can disappear completely after a long time of working out.
Although, just one meal full of carbs can quickly fill up the ‘glycogen depot’ (so to speak). Keep in mind, if you consume more carbs than the body needs, carbohydrates are converted into fat and stored in your body. Therefore, regulating your carb intake will help ensure that carbs don’t turn into fat and are instead used to help you burn off fat.
Consider carbs as an efficient fuel for exercise and don’t be afraid of it. Just remember that too many carbs and too little activity will turn your fuel into fat!
Why should I eat carbs?
Besides the reasons mentioned above, the brain is extremely dependent on glucose as fuel, and you get this ‘brain fuel’ from carbs. If your body doesn’t get enough carbs, you can develop hypoglycemia and uncomfortable symptoms like dizziness, nausea, cold sweats, concentration difficulties, increased pulse, extreme hunger and confusion. And, nobody wants that.
General Carb Guidelines
As a general guideline, an intake of 5 - 7 grams of carbs per kilogram of body weight is recommended. But, this will vary and depend on how active you are:
For someone who engages in low to moderate activity (ie. a normal office job), a diet that consist of 40-50% carbohydrates (about 300 grams a day) is suitable.
On the other hand, those who move more at work and workout more often will need more. If you lead a very active lifestyle - then the recommended level is between 7 - 13 grams per kilo body weight.
Pro Tip: Eat about 3-5 hours before any workout and as soon as possible post workout (within 2 hours after a training session) for the best results.
Did you know?
The average carbohydrate intake varies a lot on where you are in the world and between individuals. For example, in many parts of Africa the typical diet is composed of 80% carbs, while an average diet in the Western world consists of about 40% to 50% carbs. Caribbean countries on the other hand eat a diet with around 65% carbs, closer to the recommended intake for an active person.
Where can I find carbs?
Due to the need to include a lot of carbohydrates in your diet (especially if you’re active), it’s important that you choose healthy sources like fruit, grains, legumes and root fruits.
Here's a short list of healthy sources of carbs to choose from:
- Whole grain pasta etc.
All vegetables contain some carbs. Plus, there are some foods that contain protein, fat and carbohydrates all in one, like milk, yoghurt, and soybeans. Overall, carbs are your friend...just don’t abuse them.