In this blog I want to address the topic of carbohydrates, commonly referred to as “carbs”. I tiptoe into this topic as it can be controversial. The word “carbs” has been demonized, but are all carbs bad?
According to Nutrition Source, on https://www.hsph.harvard.edu, foods high in carbohydrates are essential to a healthy diet. Carbohydrates provide the body with glucose which convert to energy, which supports bodily functions and physical activity. As a long-distance runner, I rely on carbs to give me energy. I have tried low-carb diets and found it affected my overall running performance. I have also experienced performance issues when eating poor-quality carbs, such as simple carbohydrates. That said, during a recent 29k trail race, I used sugar in the form of gels, to fuel my run. A simple carb like sugar converts very quickly to energy and restocks glycogen in our cells. Glycogen is the main source of fuel for our cells. Running, cycling or any endurance sport depletes Glycogen in our cells, and causes a drop in performance.
To better explain we can break carbohydrates into two categories.
1) Simple carbohydrates:
These carbohydrates are composed of sugars (such as fructose and glucose). They have simple chemical structures consisting of only one sugar or two sugars. Simple carbohydrates are quickly converted for energy by the body because of their simple chemical structure. This quick conversion often leads to a faster rise in blood sugar and insulin secretion from the pancreas, which can negatively impact your health. Unhealthier sources of carbohydrates include white bread, pastries, sodas, and other highly processed or refined foods. Often after eating simple carbs you will experience an initial burst of energy followed by a low.
2) Complex carbohydrates:
These carbohydrates have more complex chemical structures, with three or more sugars linked together. Many complex carbohydrate foods contain higher amounts of fibre, vitamins and minerals, and they take longer to digest. This means they have less of an immediate impact on blood sugar, causing it to rise more slowly. For everyday eating where you want a steady stream of energy not highs and lows, it’s best to look for the healthiest sources of carbohydrates, such as unprocessed or minimally processed whole grains, vegetables, fruits and beans.
Plant based eating means eating lots of vegetables, grains and beans and therefore carbs, but if you look to the glycemic index you can find the low glycemic carbs that won’t affect your blood sugar and help provide a steady stream of energy. Ultimately food is energy for our bodies and as a yoga teacher I have learned to pay attention to my body. If food makes me tired or heavy, I avoid it. If it makes me feel calm and energetic I eat it. This way I am deciding for myself what best suits my needs. I enjoy the odd break from eating this way. Like most of us I enjoy the occasional dessert such as a slice of apple pie, or non dairy ice cream. I’m just careful that eating simple carbs are not the mainstay of my diet.
Sheree’s Hack; become familiar with the glycemic index of foods https://www.diabetes.ca/resources/tools---resources/the-glycemic-index-(gi)
Sheree Bicholson, owns and operates Live With Spirit Yoga and Fitesss. She has a certificate in Plant Based Nutition, though eCorn3ll nnad has been fully Plant Gawsef for 12 years, www.liveiwthspirit.ca to book her for nutriional advice..