by Craig Pollard, A Fitter Me

Hello again team! I hope the last month has been a healthy one for you.

Just so we are all on the same page, let’s do a quick recap: we’re eating 5-6 times a day (your meal sizes should be based on the amount of activity you’ll be undertaking); drinking 1-2 litres of water throughout day; and make sure you’re getting good protein with each meal. Now we are going to move into the most misunderstood of our food friends – the carbohydrate.

Carbohydrates are used to provide energy for many functions like powering working muscles, fuel for the central nervous system, enabling the metabolism of fat and, most importantly, preventing protein from being used as energy. Carbohydrates are your muscles preferred energy source and that is why it’s good to have a good fill of carbohydrates before a workout for energy and after your workout to replenish and to transport protein to damaged muscles to do their repair work.

But not all carbohydrates are equal…

Simple carbohydrates

Okay… some science stuff. Simple carbohydrates are made up of one or two sugars, that means they can be processed by your body rapidly. Simple carbohydrates are found in foods like table sugar, products with white flour, honey, milk, yoghurt, candy, chocolate, fruit, fruit juice, cake, jam, biscuits, soda, and packaged cereals. As you can see, some of these foods have good nutritional value and are good for you… so no, not all simple carbohydrates are bad for you.

Complex carbohydrates

Complex carbohydrates are made up of three or more sugars. This more complex structure means they take your body longer to digest. This also means that, with the slower digestion, your blood sugar levels don’t rise as fast as when you consume simple carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates also tend to be rich in fibre and micronutrients and they are the main source of energy for our bodies. Complex carbohydrates are founds in vegetables like spinach, broccoli, sweat potatoes, whole grains, lentils and many other foods.

So, now that we understand that there are two kinds of carbohydrates, we should eat more complex carbs than simple, and the simple ones we do eat will be from natural sources, not processed foods.

But it’s also important to understand what carbs do to you when you eat them.

When you eat carbs, they are turned into base sugars in your stomach and small intestine. These sugars (such as fructose or galactose) enter the liver and are processed into glucose which is transported by the bloodstream through your body to the muscle tissue, organs, and brain… wherever it is needed. Each muscle has a storage tank for the glucose to be stored and the liver will also store an overflow that can be called upon when the body needs it. This stored glucose is called glycogen.

When we are physically active or working out, we can use all the glucose that is in the bloodstream then we start to use the energy that is in storage. Once it’s all gone, you need to replenish these reserves. This is why when working out you should pre-load your body for the demands that you are going to place on it and then fill it up after your workout to get your body back to its normal state as soon as you can.

Carbs are your body’s “go to” place for energy and, if you don’t have enough, your body will start to look for energy wherever it can and that usually means that it will turn to your protein intake and muscles. These are the next easiest ways to fuel the body, but this is an issue because you are now taking away fuel that was intended to repair and grow muscles.

It’s like a symphony… all the things you eat working together. Proteins for growth, fats for immune system, heat regulation and many other functions, and carbs for fiber, starch, and micronutrients.

Remember, consuming too carbs many cause the extra intake to be stored as fat so, just like protein, consume appropriate amounts of carbs throughout the day and the amounts will depend on your energy requirements over the next 3-4 hours.

Craig is a Certified Personal Trainer and is certified in Nutrition for Sport and Performance. Craig operates AFitter.Me, a small, independent gym in Kemptville and works with iNSiDE Out STUDiO barre for Nutrition.