5 REASONS YOU NEED TO EAT CARBOHYDRATES
Time to read 6 min
Time to read 6 min
You’ve probably been told to stay away from carbs by some fitness influencer on Instagram. Consider this your invitation to unfollow them because carbs are not your enemy.
Carbohydrates are a vital macronutrient that plays an important role in a healthy and balanced diet. If you’re leaving carbs out, you’re making a mistake. Not all carbs are equal, which means not all carbs are bad, and while you should absolutely cut down on the donuts if you think you’re eating too many, cutting the entirety of carbs out of your diet is not going to help you achieve your goals any faster.
So, what are the main functions of carbohydrates? Why does your body need carbohydrates? Why are carbohydrates important? Let us show you.
If there’s one thing carbs do right (whether we give them credit or not) is improve our mood. Why? Because they are delicious, and we love them. You might not know it, but that slice of pizza, that hot bowl of pasta, those freshly baked cookies and that bursting box of popcorn are all home to carbs.
Carbs make us happier, and that’s no exaggeration. Carbohydrates have a chemical reaction that boosts your brain’s release of serotonin, which is a chemical in the brain that promotes your mood, happiness and optimism (Mao, K. 2020).
While many people vilify carbs, they are far from your worst enemy. Research has found that when you stop eating carbohydrates, your brain stops regulating serotonin, which, in addition to the mood-boosting properties that we touched on already, also plays a role in appetite suppression (Thompson, E. 2004).
When serotonin is produced and activated in your brain, it pulls the breaks in your appetite and makes you feel full before you push your stomach to its limits. Carbohydrates function to not only protect you from overeating, but they also ensure your mood remains balanced and positive.
In simple terms: carbs = happy.
We already know that carbohydrates are important to the brain because they help to produce serotonin, but going beyond that, how do they impact your actual brain function? One of the main functions of carbohydrates is to fuel your brain. The primary source of fuel that your brain uses is glucose, which is a type of sugar in the blood that is obtained through the breakdown of carbohydrates in your body.
As you can imagine, with all the actions your brain performs, it metabolises glucose at an incredibly high rate, burning through roughly 5.6mg of glucose per 100g of brain tissue per minute. Carbohydrates are the only nutrients that can manage that rate of energy expenditure, with your brain preferring carbohydrates from rich whole foods rather than simple sugars (Garari, K. 2017).
Basically, just as you might be picky with food, so too is your brain with carbohydrates.
Complex carbohydrates, which include high-fibre carbs like whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables, are packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that are used to fuel your brain. Beyond that, they also fortify your brain against damage from free radicals that can affect you from pollution, stress and overall life. These complex carbohydrates take longer to digest and provide a steady source of fuel that can boost your mental function and brain performance. Compared to simple carbs like soft drinks, cookies and lollies, complex carbs can take your performance to another level. The high fibre amount also supports good gut bacteria, which can play a role in your brain performance (Weinandy, L. 2018).
If carbohydrates act as fuel for your brain, you can probably guess that they also provide energy to the rest of your body. Another one of carbohydrates’ role in the body is to help the body by acting as the primary energy source. The body breaks down these carbohydrates into glucose, which is used as a source of fuel by your body’s cells, tissues, and organs.
Just like with your brain, complex carbohydrates are the most effective source of energy. This makes them a great source for training. Carbohydrates break down into smaller sugars in your body (glucose, fructose, and galactose), which are used as energy. Unused glucose is converted into glycogen and stored in the muscles and liver. When it comes to training, glycogen is the energy source most often used in short, intense episodes of exercise (sprinting or weightlifting), and it is converted back to glucose to be burned for fuel (Quinn, E. 2021).
Carbohydrates are essential because they are the primary source of energy in your diet. The glucose that carbohydrates provoke is transported through the blood and into your body’s cells, where it produces ATP (adenosine triphosphate), which is then used as fuel to complete a number of metabolic tasks. The process in which your cells turn carbs into ATP is called cellular respiration (Pearson, K. 2017).
If you train frequently and suffer in the aftermath, don’t just stop at the post-workout protein shake; fuel yourself with carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates are important in promoting a healthy recovery by replenishing your glycogen stores after training. High-intensity exercise leads to glycogen depletion, which can be combated by consuming carbohydrates after working out. This not only helps to replenish your glycogen level but can also reduce muscle soreness in the aftermath of a heavy session. To further fight against soreness, you can consume carbohydrates before you train too. The less your glycogen levels are depleted, the less pain you will feel after training (ISSA. 2020).
And as we touched on above, carbohydrates can enhance your performance, too, allowing you to reduce soreness and improve performance and energy. It Sounds like a win-win situation.
We touched on it earlier, but carbohydrates make for an effective method of appetite suppression by regulating the cues that make you feel hungry and full. If you’re not getting enough carbohydrates into your body, you will probably notice yourself feeling hungry quite often, even if you’ve only just eaten. Carbs can help to suppress your appetite by providing your body with a source of fibre that helps to slow down the digestion process, making you feel fuller for longer (Wicks, L. 2022).
Carbohydrates are not only essential in providing energy to fuel physical activity, but they can also play an important role in stabilising blood sugar levels. While it is commonly believed that carbohydrates are responsible for spikes in blood sugar, it is actually the type and quantity of carbohydrates that have the greatest impact on blood sugar regulation. Complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, release glucose into the bloodstream at a slower and steadier rate than simple carbohydrates, like white bread and sugary drinks. By consuming a balanced diet with a moderate amount of complex carbohydrates, you can promote stable blood sugar levels and decrease their risk of developing chronic diseases such as diabetes. So, don’t be afraid of carbs - embrace them (Vann, M. 2017).
So, if you were wondering why your body needs carbohydrates, this is it. Carbohydrates and carbohydrates play a crucial role in maintaining a healthy and balanced diet. They provide our bodies with essential energy that keeps us going throughout the day. Although certain types of carbohydrates can have negative effects if consumed in large amounts, it’s important to keep in mind that carbohydrates are not the enemy.
It’s not always easy to get enough complex carbohydrates into your body, and when it comes to training and recovery, you may need more to support your goals. Don’t worry; we’ve got you covered. Among our best carbohydrate supplements, you will find Evolve Incredible Carbs and Switch Nutrition Carbs, which are flavourless formulas that can deliver rapid carbs.
Cream of Rice can offer 100% pure carbs in a delicious, easy-to-prepare snack form, while ON Serious Mass can offer a mass gain solution that fuels you with carbohydrates and protein to support your training and physique goals.
For a natural and vegan-friendly alternative, Prana Natural Mass can support you.
If you need more information about the value of carbohydrates or help finding the right Carbohydrate Supplements to support your goals, our friendly team at ASN can help you. Just head in-store or reach out online.
Mao, K. 2020, ‘The Nerdy Stuff with Kenneth Mao Part Two: Carbohydrates’, Blue City Athletics, accessed 2 June 2023, https://bluescityathletics.com/the-nerdy-stuff-part-two-carbohydrates/#:~:text=Carbs%20make%20us%20happier%E2%80%94and,you%20feel%20calm%20and%20satisfied.
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Vann, M. 2017, ‘How to Stabilize Your Blood Sugar’, Everyday Health, accessed 2 June 2023, https://www.everydayhealth.com/type-2-diabetes/living-with/stabilize-blood-sugar-levels/