May 26, 2016

A guide to carbohydrates

The more you understand about your diet, the better informed you’ll be when it comes to making important choices about the food and drink you consume.

At Fysiqal, we think it’s crucial to have a good grasp of what’s in your food and drink and why the body needs it. We’ve explored protein here, for example, and we want to help you to understand what it means to have a balanced diet and a healthy intake of nutrients to fuel a healthy lifestyle.

So, what about carbohydrates? They tend to have a bad reputation thanks to the advice given out in many high profile diets. Yet, just as with fats, it’s vital that your diet contains some carbs. Here’s our guide to what you need to know about them:

What are carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates are the sugars, starches and fibres found in your food which are broken down and used for energy.

There are two types. Simple carbohydrates are basically sugars – from fruit to jam or table sugar – while complex carbohydrates are either starch or fibre, including bread, rice, pasta and vegetables. This is why it’s not always helpful to talk of a ‘low-carb’ diet. Ideally you wouldn’t have too many sugars, but you do need some of those complex carbs to strike a balance.

Why do we need carbohydrates?

They help to fuel your central nervous system and provide the energy that your muscles need to operate. If your body doesn’t have enough carbohydrate then there is the distinct danger that it will break down protein instead, robbing this from your muscles and organs.
A lack of carbs – and in particular glucose – can cause you to feel dizzy, drowsy and weak.

How much carbohydrate should we consume?

Each individual’s circumstances are different. What we do know is that each gram of carbohydrate roughly equates to four calories of energy. We also know that an ideal diet would be made up of somewhere in between 45 and 65 per cent of carbohydrates. So, if your intake is 2,000 calories, then about 250g of carbs is a handy target.

This changes if you suffer from conditions such as diabetes or are solely concentrated on losing weight. Both of these categories of people need to cut the carb intake to below 200g to control their blood sugar/weight.

If you’re training for more than one hour a day, then you might well want to nudge your carb intake up into the upper end of the percentage bracket above so that you will have the right amount of energy to be able to carry out your regime.

What are the best sorts of carbohydrates for my diet?

So, how do you get ‘good carbs’ into a well-balanced healthy diet? Firstly, avoid over-indulging in simple carbs. Sugary snacks are high in calories but provide little nutritional value to you. They’re more likely to cause your blood sugar level to rise and fall and lead you to feel hungry more often.

Complex carbs are much better, but it’s best to stick to certain sorts here too. Refined products, such as white rice and bread, have had some of the goodness stripped off. Instead, shop for wholegrain rice, pasta and bread. Also, take in plenty of vegetables, nuts, seeds and beans to get carbs that are rich in vitamins and minerals.

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