There are so many diets out there that leads us so confused and conflict. At the end of the day, should we eat carbohydrates at all?
The truth is, we need carbohydrates in our body. There is no need to restrict or completely cut out any macronutrients that is essential for our body. Cutting out carbohydrates in our diet disrupts our metabolism and might cause a decrease in daily metabolism rate individually. Our bodies requires carbohydrates for proper functioning. They are vital because they provide essential substance for our survival and provides our brain and muscles with energy. Without adequate intake of carbohydrates, our brain cannot function well, we cannot think straight, our muscles feels depleted and our body will be negatively impacted.
Carbohydrates serves 3 primary roles in our body that relates to energy metabolism and exercise performance.
In layman terms, if you would like regulate your metabolism rate and be able to execute higher intensity of workout to increase your fitness level, you will need carbohydrates in your nutrition.
Here’s why we do not eliminate them in our diet:
#1 It is a form of Energy Source
The energy acquired from glucose and muscle glycogen breakdowns to give you the required power for muscle action during high intensity exercises (1).
Adequate daily intake helps maintains the body’s limited glycogen stores which leads to the next point.
#2 Preserves Protein to stay Lean, not famished
Adequate daily carbohydrate intakes preserves tissue proteins which are needed to maintain, repair and grow tissues in your body (2).
Thus, if glycogen stores runs below its reserve, your body will synthesize glucose (which you obtain from carbs) from protein and portion of fat molecule. This is scenario that you would not want because you will want to preserve protein in your body to stay lean, nourished and healthy, not undernourished and famished.
#3 Facilitates the use of Fat for Energy
Carbohydrates acts as a “primer” to facilitate the use of fat for energy, particularly in the liver (3). Therefore, inadequate carbohydrates in your diet causes an increase in stress for your body as it has to depend on fat utilisation for energy. This stress implicates your body to not being able to sustain high level of aerobic exercise or reduces your maximum energy output during your workout, causing you to not being able to perform at your best.
Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing too.
Overconsumption of carbohydrate intake causes your body to convert them into fat, leading to an increase in body fat percentage!
Our recommended carbohydrate intake in our totally daily intake should comprise 40-50% in total calories. These total calories should be predominantly comprise of unrefined fiber - rich fruits, legumes, grains and vegetables as they contain more nutritional values and are generally lower in calories. In contrast, cookies, candies, breads and cakes are rich in carbohydrates, higher in calories with minimum nutrition values.
Examples of fiber - rich fruits, grains, legumes or vegetables:
(more information of how each individual item above provides us with different nutrients at: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/12-healthy-high-carb-foods#section13)
In conclusion, not all carbohydrates are created equal. Processed carbohydrates can be very harmful when consumed in large amounts while whole foods, non-processed carbohydrates can be very healthy and nutritious to our bodies! The key here is always go for whole, natural foods and eat in moderation!
1. Jensen, J., Rustad, P. I., Kolnes, A. J., & Lai, Y. C. (2011). The role of skeletal muscle glycogen breakdown for regulation of insulin sensitivity by exercise. Frontiers in physiology, 2, 112. doi:10.3389/fphys.2011.00112
2. Sapir, D. G., Owen, O. E., Cheng, J. T., Ginsberg, R., Boden, G., & Walker, W. G. (1972). The effect of carbohydrates on ammonium and ketoacid excretion during starvation. The Journal of clinical investigation, 51(8), 2093-2102.
3. Essentials of Exercise Physiology (4th Edition) - Victor L. Katch, William D. McArdle, Frank I. Katch