Carbs

Sugar? Starch? Carb? What’s The Difference!

Last week we talked about forms of sugar (words ending -ose) and how they are different or alike. In many cases the sugars broke down to, in at least part, glucose. Glucose is used by your muscles to perform work. Sugars are SIMPLE carbohydrates. COMPLEX carbohydrates are what we call “starches”.

Why Do I CARE??

GLYCOGEN! Glycogen is why you care.

Glycogen is one of TWO forms of energy storage in the body:

1. Glycogen stored in muscle and the liver.

2. Triglycerides (i.e. FAT) stored in adipose tissue.

So, let’s get to the point…Your body can store 1-day’s worth of glycogen. The trick is, your body will use your “one day” stores of glycogen BEFORE relying on the stored energy in your fat cells. Meaning, you MUST exercise off your daily stores before you can mobilize the energy stored in the fat cells. Keep your energy/food intake in check!

Why Complex Carbohydrates Matter

All forms of sugar, and starch, break down into glucose. Starch is a COMPLEX CARB (i.e. 3-10 sugars linked in a long COMPLEX chain) vs sugar being a SIMPLE CARB.

Starch/complex carbs break down slower than simple carbs/sugar. Since complex carbs break down slower, we stay “full” longer. Complex carb examples include peas, beans, whole grains, and vegetables. Stick with complex carbs in your diet vs simple carbs for overall health!

Starch come in the forms of digestible and resistant starch. Digestible starch is quickly turned into fat if we don’t use it right away. Resistant starch doesn’t get digested in the small intestine like digestible starch, instead many types ferment in the large intestine and act like fiber! Resistant starches are not broken down into glucose in the stomach, so they have a lower calorie content, also improve insulin sensitivity/lower our blood sugar levels and keep us full longer (thanks to the slow digestion). Although there are various types of resistant starch, some examples are grains, seeds, legumes, potatoes and unrefined rice.

WAIT: White rice is “refined”, which means it’s been processed, and the fiber has been broken down making it a SIMPLE carb. Brown rice however is a whole grain – fiber intact – so it is a complex carb. Purchase whole grain rice!

Good Carbs vs. Bad Carbs??

Why are the terms “good carbs” and “bad carbs” floating out there? GOOD carbs can be considered those that not only contain energy/glucose (i.e. refined sugar) but also vitamins and minerals (i.e. vegetables – more bang for your your calorie-buck).

EXERCISE improves how our body moves sugar/glucose into our muscles, eventually causing you to require much less insulin than someone who is physically inactive.

What’s The BIG Deal With “Macros”?

If you’ve been around a bodybuilder, you’ve likely heard them talking about getting their “macros” in. Balancing your macronutrients is honestly just another way to look at food consumption, just like any other approach such as Whole 30, Precision Nutrition’s hand/palm/fist/thumb approach, or any other.

If you haven’t found an approach that works well for you yet, maybe macro dieting is the method right for you! Macro dieting/Flexible Dieting can help with portion control as well as more balanced nutrient intake and paying more attention to processed food intake. As with most approaches, finding the right balance will help with energy levels, cravings, and even quality of sleep and workouts.

What ARE Macros?

The three MACROnutrient categories are carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Speaking in terms of calories, carbohydrates and proteins provide 4 calories per gram and fat provides 9 calories per gram. Is a macro the same as a vitamin or mineral? No, vitamins and minerals are MICROnutrients which are also very important! Your body needs less of them (hence the word micro) but they are vitamins and minerals needed for immune function, blood clotting, bone health, growth, and so much more!

How Much Should I Eat?

Macros are based on your height, weight, age, activity level, and goals. For example, a 150-pound, 5’ 5” female who is moderately active and wants to have a steady weight loss would be around 1700 calories per day broken down to a pretty typical 40/30/30 ratio: 40% carbs at 170g, 30% protein at 124g, and 30% fat at 56g.

You can find your own macro calculator here:
https://healthyeater.com/flexible-dieting-calculator

NOTE: Calculators are not perfect or right for everyone. A more accurate calculation would calculate based only on LEAN tissue since body fat % plays a roll in the energy needs of the body.

Carbohydrates

*Gasp* Carbohydrates ARE needed for energy. Carbohydrates also tend to be where we consume the micronutrients we need in our diet. Whole foods are the best source for carbohydrates because they will pack more fiber. Fiber is the part of carbohydrates that reduce our risk for disease, improve digestion, etc. Optimally, women should obtain at least 35g of fiber per day and men, 48g.

Fat and Protein

Fats give us energy, support cell growth, and aid in the absorption of vitamins and nutrients (our BRAINS are fat-based! So the next time someone calls you “Fathead” perhaps a “Thank You!” is in order).

Mix up the types of fat you eat to get a balance of saturated, polyunsaturated, and monounsaturated fats.

Proteins are the building blocks of our muscle (and most the rest of our body for that matter). A very lean protein is a protein with 1g of fat or less per ounce. Lean protein is 1g-3g per ounce. When looking at your labels, first determine how many ounces you are looking at like a 3-ounce fillet of beef/chicken/pork/fish. If your 3-ounce fillet has 9g or less of fat, you have a lean cut of protein.

Keep in mind that any strict form of eating may not be suitable with a history of disordered eating. Be sure to check with your doctor before starting any major changes in the way you eat and be aware of any interactions with medications. Like most healthy ways of eating, eating your macros will come in the form of eating every 3-4 hours, choosing whole foods, and eating your vegetables! In the end, eat mostly plant-based foods and find the system that works best for your lifestyle and goals, and you will likely see success!

Interested in more reading? Check this out:
https://www.cookinglight.com/eating-smart/macro-diet-counting-macros-weight-loss-better-nutrition

The Devil in the Details…Sugar!

Sugar inside the body – blood sugar – is a sticky substance that coats the red blood cells. If left in the bloodstream (instead of being burned as energy) the particles will start to stick to the cells, interfering with blood circulation and oxygen exchange! Research has even shown that white blood cells are less efficient at fighting illness when exposed to sugar. Be careful of added sugars in your diet, especially if you feel an illness coming on!

One thing to think about here is the difference between complex carbohydrates and simple carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates come from vegetables and whole grain sources and break down more slowly, releasing glucose into the bloodstream more steadily instead of creating a spike in blood sugar. Read more about glycemic index here at nih.gov

WARNING: Sugars Hiding On The Label!

Did you know there are 56 different names for sugar?? Watch your labels and look for sneaky sugar words like dextrose, sucrose, sorbitol, rice syrup, and so many more! Read the full list here!

You also have to be aware of “healthy” sounding sugars like Agave. Agave is made by treating agave plant sugars with heat and enzymes which leads to a highly refined end product still heavily loaded with calories and still…sugar! Even raw, unfiltered, organic, locally produced honey which certainly has some positive properties and benefits is still ultimately sugar – so stay sharp if fat loss is your goal!

Added Sugars can lead to Excess Weight. Why? Sugar in the blood that goes unused completely ends up being stored as fat. Too much fat in the body can lead to obesity, and obesity is known to trigger diabetes and heart disease, among other common diseases.

Diabetes is not directly caused by too much added sugar but excess weight raises the risk for diabetes. Once a person has diabetes, added sugar can make it worse since your body becomes less efficient at regulating blood sugar (glucose) due to spikes and drops in insulin. Worse yet due to the disrupted blood circulation, diabetes can cause high blood pressure and ultimately heart attack, stroke, eye conditions, nerve damage, and kidney damage.

When we eat too much sugar, the process called glycation can occur. When this happens, some of the sugar we consume sticks to the proteins in our body, causing our body tissues to lose their elasticity. It is not just our skin that is affected, but also our internal organs. The faster that the body loses its elasticity, the faster aging occurs!

Refined carbohydrates such as white bread and other white flour products tend to be very high in sugar and will cause an inflammation of the skin. Additionally, when we eat too much sugar, the process called glycation can occur. When this happens some of the sugar we consume sticks to the proteins in our body, causing our body tissues to lose their elasticity. It is not just our skin that is affected, but also our internal organs. The faster that the body loses its elasticity, the faster aging occurs! Skip the added sugar and age gracefully!