Carbohydrates are vital for the body as an energy source. But are all carbohydrates equal? No!
Let’s start from the beginning. Simple carbs, like sugars, (glucose, not including fruit, fruit has fructose) are digested in the small intestine and passed through the lining directly to the blood stream. So as you can see, there is not a lot of energy (calories) burned here for the digestive process. This also means that the digestion process is much faster, and so making you hungry faster. More on this in a moment.
Complex Carbs are also digested in the small intestine, however they go through a number of changes before being converted to glucose. This means that you burn more calories during the digestive process and it takes a lot longer to digest these foods, and so you are not as hungry as quickly.
The glucose then enters the blood stream, where it would become toxic, if it were not for Insulin. Insulin is a hormone secreted by the Pancreas to transport glucose out of the blood stream and take it to the liver where it is converted to glycogen. Once it is converted to glycogen it is then transported to the muscles where it is stored as an energy source. If however the glycogen stores are full, the liver converts the glucose to fat and stores it as adipose tissue.
Now if you are not eating any carbs or sugar products, if your body needs glycogen, it actually converts the stored fat, to glycogen! So you don’t have to actually eat carbs at all! Pretty nifty eh!
NB: if you are consuming more food than you are in fact burning regardless of the type of food you are consuming, you will put on fat.
So why are simple carbs criticized so much?
a) They are criticized because you eat more calories!
When you eat foods high in fat, protein and fiber you are fuller for longer. This prevents you from ‘snacking’ because of hunger. Therefore you keep your calorie intake down.
When you are eating ‘Complex carbohydrates’ such as all vegetables and even fruit, the fiber inside these sorts of Carbs, together with the process required to chemically digest and change these Carbs to glucose, takes a lot longer, keeping you fuller for longer, preventing you from snacking, and therefore keeps your calorie intake down.
When you eat simple carbs like rice, pasta, bread, muesli, oats, cereals, biscuits etc you are digesting these food very quickly and as a result get hungry faster, and therefore eat more daily calories unnecessarily.
b) They are criticized because they are addictive!
Simple Carbs are high in sugar. Sugar triggers the Opioid receptors in the brain, giving you that ‘feel good’ euphoria. Just like with drugs however, the more you trigger that receptor the more resistant it becomes. This means that you need a higher dose of sugar in order to get the same level of ‘feel good’ euphoria. So your body craves more sugar to get the same level of effect. The more you crave, the more you have. The more you have, the more you crave. You get the drift.
As a result of their addictive tendencies, it is no wonder that people who consume simple carbs, tend to consume much higher calories per day than they burn, as well as having that constant craving for a ‘sugar fix’.
c) They are criticized because Carbs inadvertently switch off your fat burning capacity!
As we have already discussed, carbs are converted to glucose and transported through the blood stream. When they enter into the blood stream, they trigger the hormone Insulin. The catch is, when insulin is active, your fat burning capacity is hindered. Therefore, you are consuming high quantities of calories, without the ability to actually burn them!
d) They are criticized because Simple Carbs trigger your Ghrelin “I am hungry” hormone!
When your Insulin hormone is triggered the other thing that happens is that your Ghrelin hormone is also triggered. Ghrelin is the hormone that tells your body you are hungry and that it needs to keep eating. When Insulin is triggered, your Leptin “I am full” hormone is not triggered. So your body does not recognize that it has had enough to eat, even though you have consumed a huge amount of food, and your stomach may be bloated and feeling sick. So you keep eating.
e) They are criticized because they are negative calories with next to no nutritional value!
Simple carbs do not contain anywhere near as many vitamins, minerals, micro-nutrients, and macro-nutrients as complex carbs. So consuming these foods are not doing your body any good. To obtain plenty of these nutrients you need to be consuming plenty of complex carbs such as vegetables.
Imagine now starting off your day with a high simple carb breakfast, that triggers your Opioid Receptors. In other words if you are having any of the following for breakfast:
You get the general idea of what we are talking about here.
High sugar breakfast means that you are setting yourself up for a high cravings day of constant eating. Not to mention the fact that it is digested so quickly and easily that only a short while later, you are hungry again! So you eat more calories. Of course you are also preventing your fat burning capacity, so it’s not looking good is it?
So, start your day off with a high fat, high protein, high fiber breakfast (eg steak/eggs/chicken/fish with green salad/mushrooms/avocado/grilled tomato/raw almonds/raw walnuts that sort of thing) and you will:
– feel fuller for longer
– burn more during the digestion process
– Stimulate your “I am full” hormone rather than the “I am hungry” hormone
– not stimulate so much insulin and so not hinder fat burning
– activate your fat burning capacity
– Avoid you consuming so many unnecessary calories that you simply will not use!
The trick is, if you want something sweet, some simple carbs, then have them as the last thing that you are going to eat before going to bed. This way even though it is triggering your “I am hungry” hormone, you won’t anything anything else, because you will go to bed and start afresh tomorrow! You will still be consuming unnecessary excess calories, but at least it will stop there and you won’t go overboard.
Hopefully this has now cleared up all the confusion relating t carbs. Happy eating!