Why Your Body Needs Carbohydrates


Written by: ASN



Time to read 3 min

If you’ve been trying to shed some unwanted weight or improve your overall health, you may have heard a nasty rumour. You may have heard that something is out to sabotage your efforts, slow your progress, and keep you uncomfortable in your own skin.

You may have heard about *lowers voice to a whisper*...
...“Carbohydrates”. You can relax, you haven’t gained 5kg from seeing that word.

Carbohydrates (a.k.a. carbs) make up one of the macronutrients found in our foods and drinks, the others being Protein & Fat (and technically also Alcohol, but there is no amount of Alcohol you should try to aim for each day. It’s toxic to your body and will hinder weight loss, every time. Sorry). It has several different forms, and is crucial in a number of functions in the body, such as:
- Being the body’s most readily available source of energy
- Supplying energy to the brain
- Preventing breakdown of protein for energy, which is needed for muscle repair and maintenance
- Assist in accessing stored energy (read: fat) to burn
- Provide fibre for digestive function and satiety
- Tasting yummy; All work and no carbs makes Alex a dull boy

So as you can see, carbs perform a number of crucial functions and have been unfairly demonized. And indeed, can help your body burn fat! So now that we’ve warmed to the idea of carbs as our friends, what types are there (and why should you care)?

Types of Carbohydrates:

-Dietary Fibre

Simple Carbohydrates (sugars) are the carbs that are most easily broken down by the body for energy. They release energy the fastest, and thus can spike blood sugar levels. After this spike, there’s typically a drop in blood sugar levels, resulting in a drop of energy (does the “3:00pm slump” sound familiar?).

This is one of the primary reasons we look at changing the amounts and types of carbs we consume; people trying to lose fat while unknowingly consuming high-carb diets find themselves tired quite often, and turn to sugary drinks and foods for an energy hit. This can lead to a cycle of:
Simple carb hit => spike in blood sugar => short term energy burnt => drop in blood sugar => energy crash => simple carb hit. And the cycle continues.

Simple carb sources can include:

-pastries, cakes, sweets
-energy drinks and soft drinks

A guideline you can use for determining how much of your carbs should come from simple sources can be – 1/3 of your daily carb intake, eaten earlier in the day, ideally around or close to a weights training session when your body is better able to burn it off.

Complex Carbohydrates (Starches) are carbs that are harder for the body to break down, and thus provide longer lasting energy without the spike in blood sugar levels that come from simple carbs. Introducing more complex carb foods into your diet rather than simple carb foods can help with preventing you going for the quick energy hit found in sugars, helping to prevent over-eating on carbs and aiding fat loss. A guideline you can use for determining how much of your carbs should come from complex sources can be – 1/3 of daily carb intake, eaten ideally around midday to provide energy to last you through the 3:00pm sugar cravings.

Complex Carb sources include:

-potato, white and sweet
-breads, ideally wholemeal/brown
-rice and other grains

Dietary Fibre refers to carb sources that provide roughage/bulk to your diet, aiding proper digestive function and satiety. They are low in overall carbohydrate amounts whilst being high in vitamins and minerals, making them a staple of any successful eating plan long term. A guideline you can use for determining how much of your carbs should come from dietary fibre would be – 1/3 of daily carb intake, spread over the later 3 meals of the day, but ideally in as many meals as possible.

Dietary Fibre sources include:

-vegetables again
-more vegetables

So apologise to carbohydrates. Shake hands, hug it out, and make up. Now that you know what they do, what types there are, and when to have them, this could be the start of a beautiful friendship.