Preggo Health Nut

Pregnant and fit is not an oxymoron.. its possible!

Carbs Aren’t the Bad Guys!!!

on September 5, 2012

Lots of people out there, some who would be considered “experts” have pinned carbs as the primary cause for weight gain in individuals. However, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans urges people to consume plenty of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains- all carbohydrate rich foods! Some of the current and past trending diets tell how carbs are absorbed too fast and can raise your blood glucose which causes your pancreas to release insulin- and insulin is being blamed for the weight increase epidemic. Some even went as far to say that carbs are as toxic in your body as poisons. Whether these diets are telling you to replace the “bad’ carbs with the “good” carbs, or to cut out carbs all together… they are distorting the facts about carbs. So, lets look at the facts and then you can decide for yourself what is best for your diet/ body. (Get comfortable… this is kind of a lot of info!)

Carbs have be blamed for the obesity epidemic however, research has shown that over the past few decades there wasn’t an increase or drop in carbs specifically; total daily energy intake (how many total calories being eaten) has increased by at least 300 calories a day. “As more foods were becoming readily available consumers began to eat more” (1)… So basically, as more ready to eat foods are available making eating less of a process (excluding the cooking and baking process), people ate more in general. At the same time of the increase in calories, research showed that daily activity had decreased as well. So people were eating more and burning less… this would obviously cause an increase in weight.

In epidemiological studies they have found an inverse relationship between a high carb diet and low body weight. Dietary fiber has a lot to do with this relationship but, there was no decrease in carb intake. Low-carb diets can help you lose weight and quick, even more than a high carb, low fat diet. However that is only for the first six months, later weight gains make up the difference so, total weight loss is no different after one year. Weight losses reflect restricted calorie diets, not the portion of energy nutrients in the diet. Increased sugar intake has a huge impact on weight gains as well (I will do another post specifically about sugar later).

The primary role of carbs in the body is to supply the cells with glucose for energy. Scientists have long known that providing energy is glucose’s primary role in the body. The body needs and uses glucose as a chief energy nutrient. Here is the scientific breakdown of how your body gets energy:

  • After a meal your blood glucose rises and your liver creates long chains of glycogen.
  • When blood glucose falls the liver breaks these chains into single molecules and releases into the blood stream.
  • Glucose then becomes available to supply energy to the brain and other tissues.

The energy supply is used for all the processes taking place throughout the body like digestion etc. Muscle cells can store glucose but they hoard their supply for use during exercise- this is why if you are physically active it is very important to get sufficient carbs! Another reason you should be continually eating carbs with your meals is that the body can only store enough glycogen to provide energy for relatively short periods of time (less than a day during rest and a few hours at most during exercise).

For long term energy reserves your body uses fat stores. It would seem that less carbs would cause your body to eat up the fat as energy and help you lose weight… but this is a bad idea! Here’s why… Glucose (specifically) fuels the work of most of the body’s cells. Once the livers stores of energy deplete if the glucose is not replenished, your body will grab energy from fat and protein but at a high cost. When the body draws the little energy from proteins that it can, it takes the amino acids and proteins away from doing their job (that no other nutrient can perform). Fat cannot be converted to glucose to any significant extent, so your body tries to take from proteins which as stated before have an important job that nothing else can do. When the body tries to use fat for energy, it takes an alternative metabolic pathway- instead of entering the main energy pathway, fat fragments combine with one another creating ketone bodies. Ketone bodies provide an alternate fuel source during starvation, but when their production exceeds their use they accumulate in the blood causing ketosis. Ketosis disturbs the bodies normal acid-base balance which can cause: nausea, fatigue, constipation, low blood pressure, elevated uric acid (may exacerbate kidney disease and cause inflammation of the joints), bad breath, and fetal harm and still birth in pregnant women.

To avoid all of this your body needs at least 50 to 100 grams of carbs a day. Select from a wide variety of carbohydrate rich foods such as, fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains. So, in conclusion… Eat. Your. Carbs! But make sure you aren’t eating the refined sugar filled carbs.. get the good whole grains, fruits, veggies etc. And make sure to get the adequate amount.. No more, No less (but if you are doing moderate to hard core workouts… get some extra carbs so your muscles have fuel to burn)! I know this was a lot of info and long but, I hope it helps you to make an informed decision on eating carbs and how to fuel your body! If you have any questions, as always… feel free to ask!

(1) Understanding Nutrition by Whitney and Rolfes  Pg 126-129


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