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Scientists say that, "Under normal conditions, your brain needs 100 to 135 grams of glucose per day."

What Are Carbohydrates: Carbohydrate is the technical term for all sugars, starch and fiber. It is the body’s ideal fuel for most functions. Carbohydrates supply the body with the energy needed for the muscles, brain and central nervous system. If you cut carbs too much, your physical performance and your mental sharpness will take a plunge. In fact, the human brain depends exclusively on carbohydrates for its energy.

During digestion, all carbohydrates are broken down into glucose before they can enter the bloodstream where insulin helps the glucose enter the body’s cells. Glucose is stored as glycogen in the liver and muscles for future use. If there is extra glucose, the body stores it as fat.

Types Of Carbohydrates:
  • Simple carbs are primarily the sugars occurring naturally or artificially in foods such as those found in fruits, juices, honey, milk (as lactose), table sugar, soft drinks, sweeteners and products made out of white flour. They are broken down and digested quickly providing you instant energy. Since they are digested very quickly, they cause a rapid rise in blood sugar and a large insulin spike. A huge amount of insulin release causes your body to turn the excess carbs into fat. High insulin levels also inhibit enzymes that promote the breakdown of stored body fat (lipolysis).

  • Complex carbs are known as starches and fibers found in vegetables, grains and legumes. They enter the blood stream gradually and trigger only a moderate rise in insulin levels. This stabilizes the appetite resulting in fewer carbohydrates that are stored as fat. It is recommended that you eat mainly complex carbs throughout the day, as they are responsible for creating consistent energy levels for daily functions and also cause a less dramatic increase in the blood glucose levels as compared to simple carbs.

Food Sources: The healthy sources of carbohydrate are unprocessed or minimally processed whole grains, vegetables, fruits and beans which promote good health by delivering vitamins, minerals, fiber, and a host of important phytonutrients.

Unhealthy sources of carbohydrates include white bread, pastries, spaghettis, cookies, soft drinks, sodas, and other highly processed or refined foods. These items contain easily digested carbohydrates that contribute to weight gain and promote diabetes and heart disease.

Importance Of Carbohydrates In Fitness Goals:

Carbohydrates stored in the body are known as glycogen. The glycogen is stored in the liver and in the muscles.

The exercising muscles rely on carbohydrate as their main source of fuel. Carbs are required for the body to continually produce energy during physical activity. However, muscles have limited glycogen and they need to be topped up regularly to keep the energy up as it can affects both the length of time you can exercise and the intensity level of that exercise. A diet low in carbs can lead to a lack of energy during exercise, early fatigue and delayed recovery.

Just after your workout is the best time to eat carbs. This is a time when insulin spike is very important. Since during a vigorous workout your body turns to your glycogen stores to get energy it needs, the stores get depleted and have to be replenished. Carbs ingested at this time, raise your blood sugars levels leading to release of insulin in great amounts. The work of insulin at this time is to shuttle all the nutrients straight into the muscle to restore the glycogen levels rather than to store them as fat. This would help you to maintain and build lean body mass.

Ingesting carbs throughout the day especially simple carbs is not recommended since they are released into the bloodstream and if you do not need them at that specific time, your body’s insulin will help to store the unused portions as body fat.

Therefore, insulin is neither good nor bad. It has to be managed properly by simply making right carb choices.

Carb Guidelines:

In order to burn fat, build muscle, optimize your health and increase your energy the three key factors to consider with regard to carbs are:

  • Quantity: Eating them in the right quantity
  • Types: Choosing the right ones
  • Timing: Eating them at the right times

The Bottom Line:
Carbohydrates are neither good nor bad. The key is choosing them wisely, and timing them properly. When used properly, carbs can enhance your fitness regime.