Understanding Carbohydrates – the basics

September 27, 2022 // Liza Smith

Following on from my last post about Protein (Understanding Protein-the basics) now lets look at the next macronutrient – Carbohydrate or Carbs.

Now, Carbs get a really bad rep and a lot of fad diet trends will preach the virtues of removing carbs from your diet. The true fact is though, there is no good reason to remove carbs from your diet. Carbs are not the enemy. Carbs provide us our energy for exercise, and for general life and they help our brain function.

I am sure we all know at least one person that did some low carb diet and said how easy it was and how much weight they lost. Hell, I’m one of them – back in 2003 I did the Atkins diet and yep, I lost a tonne of weight… for a while.

The truth of it is any diet where you cut a quantity of food will work for weight loss in the short term, as you are creating a calorie deficit. But cutting carbs for a period of time means that your body becomes carb resistant and when you reintroduce carbs, your body has a hell of time trying to figure out what to do with them and in the main, this results in some pretty serious weight gain. 2004 was my fat year, after I couldn’t sustain Atkins any longer, and to be honest, nor did I want to.. I wanted Pizza!

The key to sustainable fat loss is calorie deficit. Not Keto, Not Paleo, Not Intermittent Fasting (especially not this for women as it has proven to have detrimental effects for women, especially menopausal women). You can achieve calorie deficit by those means and if thats your way then hell, you do you but for most of us, we want to enjoy our food, ALL our food and that includes the energy boosting, brain boosting carbohydrate.

We know, as I talked about it in my Protein blog, that the body burns more calories digesting protein (known as the Thermic Effect of Food “TEF) than it does the other micronutrients.
You will burn anywhere between 20 to 35% of the calories of the protein just from the digestion process.
That figure drops to 5 to 15% for carbohydrate.
Therefore  you consume 200 calories of pure carbs, around 10 to 30 calories will be burned by digestion.

In the ideal your carbohydrate consumption should be based on food rich in fibre, as fibre helps keep you fuller for longer and has many benefits for gut health.

Wholefood carbohydrates such as grains, pulses, fruits and vegetables are also rich in micronutrients and have wide ranging benefits for body function.

Carbs are split into two types; Simple and Complex, based on their chemical structure and how easily they are absorbed by the body.

Simple carbs are easily absorbed by the body and include fruits and honey.

A lot of processed and refined foods are simple carbs and these are the ones that need to be limited within a diet to achieve fat loss. Think biscuits, cakes, sweets and chocolate bars.

Complex carbs take longer to digest and include things like rice, beans, peas, lentils, peanuts, potatoes parsnips, wholemeal bread and pasta and wholegrain cereal.


About Liza Smith

Hi, I’m Liza; A badass, mud-loving, bear loving Fitness Professional. I’m happiest when doing Obstacle Course Races, Mud Runs and Triathlons and whilst doing all the training that these hobbies require.

I am a continuing work in progress, always striving to be the best version of me that I can be.

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