Originally published by Prija Prasad and reposted with permission
What are carbs and why do you need them.
Carbohydrates, often referred to as just “carbs,” are your body’s primary energy source. The three main types of carbohydrates are sugars, starches, and fiber that are part of the nutritional triad that provides your body with energy They’re called “simple” or “complex” based on their chemical makeup and what your body does with them. They help keep your body from burning the protein in your muscles and organs and they help metabolize fat. Carbs are also vital for brain function. So when should you go NO CARBS? You clearly shouldn’t.
It is accurate to a certain point that if carbohydrates are eliminated, it forces your body into a state of ketoses where your body burns stored fat. but if your caloric intake is too low, your body may also start burning muscle and even organ tissue. This will weaken you and can even threaten your health.
Effects of Going Carb-Free
While rapid weight loss usually occurs in the beginning of a carb-free diet, you may also experience fatigue, which can affect your ability to exercise and general functioning throughout the day. If you’re not getting enough potassium or magnesium, which are typically found in fruits, vegetables, beans and dairy, you may suffer muscle cramps, especially in your legs. Weakness, shakiness, and nausea may occur alongside a scarcity of coordination. Because a diet completely freed from fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains also contains no fiber, you’ll struggle with constipation. Avoiding fruits can cause dehydration unless you catch up on it by drinking more water
Carbohydrates are necessary for brain function. Your brain basically runs on sugar. Converting the glucose in your muscles takes longer and is not as efficient as converting the sugars in carbohydrates. Avoiding all carbs may leave you feeling mentally sluggish, irritable, and confused. It can affect your ability to choose words and to express your thoughts. You may also experience headaches and dizziness.
A carbohydrate can be a simple carb or a complex carb
Simple carbohydrates are composed of easy-to-digest, basic sugars, which can be an important source of energy. Some of these sugars are naturally occurring, such as those in fruits and in milk, while refined or processed sugars are often added to candies, baked goods, and soda.
Complex carbohydrates, found in whole grains, legumes, and starchy vegetables, contain longer chains of sugar molecules, which usually take more time for the body to break down and use. This in turn provides you with a more consistent amount of energy.
Simple carbohydrates to limit in your diet include those found in:
• Pastries and desserts
• Sweetened beverages, such as lemonade or iced tea
• Energy drinks
• Ice cream
Complex carbohydrates are considered “good” because of the longer series of sugars that they are made of, which the body takes longer to break down.
Foods with complex carbohydrates also typically have more vitamins, fiber, and minerals than foods containing more simple carbohydrates, as long as you’re choosing whole grains over processed ones.
Nutrient-dense complex carbs that are part of a healthy, balanced diet include:
• Whole wheat breads, pastas, and flour
• Brown and wild rices
• Legumes, such as black beans, chickpeas, lentils, and others
Why do athletes and body builders consume a lot of carbs?
Carbohydrates are an important group of foods for fuelling your muscles. That’s because carbs are partially converted to glycogen, which is stored in muscle to power your workouts. Men and women who are strength training at least twice a week need about half of their calories from carbohydrates per day.
• Carbs prevent muscle weakness.
• Carbs improve athletic performance
• Carbs repair muscles
The importance of glycogen for muscles can’t be over-emphasized, and in order to maintain glycogen stores, carbohydrates are needed.
The bottom line: Carbs are not bad for you. Carbohydrates — both simple and complex ones — are part of a healthy diet. Just be sensible about the carbs you choose. Skip low-nutrient desserts, consider the levels of sugar and fiber, and focus on healthy whole grains, fruits, and veggies to get the energy your body needs every day.