It is a common misconception that eating even low amounts of carbohydrates increases body weight.
So let’s bring some light into this darkness.
What are carbohydrates?
Carbs act as fuel for the body. When you eat carbohydrates your body breaks them down into glucose and fructose. Fructose is converted into glucose by the liver. These are then used by the body for energy or stored in your muscles. Insulin is a hormone that promotes this process. It acts like a gateway that allows glucose to enter into the cells for energy in muscles or in the form of fat cells. So it’s obvious that it’s a double edged sword. Carbs, if consumed properly, can provide you with the energy your muscles need or can make you look like a barrel.
Types of carbohydrates:
Carbohydrates are of two types.
1. Simple carbohydrates (Unhealthy carbohydrates)
2. Complex carbohydrates (Healthy carbohydrates)
Simple carbohydrates tend to have a very small and as the name suggests, a very simple structure due to which it become easier to digest these. If they’re easy to digest, why are they considered to be unhealthy? Every time you eat candy which is a simple carb, it gets digested easily and is easily converted to glucose. This glucose enters the bloodstream and activates insulin which then helps in transferring this glucose to your muscle cells. This sudden rush of glucose from your blood to your cells will cause a sugar crash in your blood and will also lead to access accumulation of glucose in your muscle cells. Once the glycogen stores in the muscles have been filled, fat storage begins. Examples of these are candy, ice-cream, cakes, etc.
Complex carbohydrates include fibers and starch. These are the complete opposite of simple carbs. Fibers and starch tend to have a large and simple structure due to which these are digested at a much slower rate. So when you eat foods containing complex carbohydrates, your body takes a longer time to convert these to glucose and later enter your blood stream. Because of this, there’s a steady increase in insulin which helps in creating a uniformity of sugar between your blood and muscle cells. So in this case, a sugar crash is not experienced. Examples: fruits, vegetables, oats, etc.
The idea of healthy and unhealthy carbs comes down to your fitness goals. If you’re trying to put on weight or let’s say bulk, you can eat sugar carbs with other macros all day long. But if you’re trying to maintain a lower body fat percentage, then consuming sugar carbs won’t be such a good idea. For example: You are eating a sugar carb (jelly) that spikes your insulin, and then you are eating a fat (peanut butter) that yo
ur body will then store for later.
A much more refined and broader method of measuring the healthiness of a food is done using two terms:
1. Glycemic index: It’s the measure of how fast the glucose in your blood increases after consuming a certain food or the rate of increase of glucose in blood. It’s obvious that foods with a low glycemic index will be considered healthier since they’ll provide a gradual supply of glucose to the blood as compared to foods with high glycemic index. Lower GI index, the healthier the carbohydrate.
2. Glycemic load: There are many foods that have a low glycemic index but at the same time possess high carbohydrates per gram and there are foods that contain a higher glycemic index with lower carbohydrates per grams. This is where another parameter comes in, known as the glycemic load. Glycemic load is defined as the amount of glucose increase in the blood after eating a particular food.
From this, we gather that foods with low GI/GL would be healthier which mostly includes whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, etc. And foods with high GI/GL which are mostly processed food like candy, soda, cookies, chips, etc are unhealthy foods.
But remember, its all about moderation, not deprivation.
Unless you plan on becoming a professional bodybuilder or fitness model, there’s little reason to obsess over such things.
However, it’s always better to know the importance of the functioning of different food groups so that proper adjustments can be made, according to your goals and the physique you desire.