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Carbohydrates: Do You Need Them?

Carbohydrates: Do I need Them? How Many Should I Eat?

There are tons of benefits when you eat carbs, however not all carbs are good for you. Eating too much or the wrong carbs can lead to weight gain and awful medical conditions. Let’s take a deep dive into the different types of carbs and classifications, the benefits, adverse effects, and how much you should eat.

What Exactly Are Carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates are macronutrients and the main source of energy or calories for your body and brain to function. The other prominent energy sources are Fat and Protein. The body relies on these three macronutrients to maintain and perform critical functions such as blood glucose regulation, growth, as well as vitamins & mineral absorption. The two classifications of carbohydrates are simple & complex, and they earned their names due to the composition of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen.

Simple VS Complex Carbohydrates

Not all carbs are created equal. Understanding the differences between the types of carbs and options available within them enables you to create the best possible diet to optimally support your health. Let’s take a look at simple carbs first.

Simple Carbohydrates

Simple carbs are easily absorbed and digested by your body to be used as energy. This is because they are made up of only one or two sugar molecules.

Simple carbs with a single sugar molecule are called monosaccharides. For example:

  • Fructose – naturally found in fruits
  • Galactose – found in milk products

Simple carbs with 2 sugar molecules are called disaccharides. For example:

  • Sucrose – table sugar
  • Maltose – found in some beers, grains, and vegetables
  • Lactose – found in dairy products

Carbohydrates: Do You Need Them? Ditch the empty calories.

You can also find simple carbs in what is called empty calories. A term referring to processed food lacking fiber, protein, vitamins and are typically made with refined sugars. These are products such as soda, candy, cookies, syrups, etc.

It’s ok to eat small amounts of simple carbs periodically without any health implications. Overconsumption is what gets people in trouble, resulting particularly in spiked blood sugar levels and weight gain. The body is efficient at using exactly what it needs for energy. Any excess glucose (derived from carbs) not used for energy is stored as fat. Since simple carbs are digested and absorbed quickly, the likelihood of fat storage increases significantly from eating excessively.

Complex Carbohydrates

Complex carbs are made up of three or more sugar molecules. Carbs with 3 plus sugars are called polysaccharides.

Their longer chain sugar makeup enables them to digest and absorb at a much slower rate. Complex carbs are packed with nutrients and you can expect to be satisfied for a longer period of time. Starchy foods such as grains, potatoes, peas, and corns all fall under the complex carbs umbrella.

Complex carbs in general are a better option than simple carbs. However, not all complex carbs are of equal value. Some complex carbs are healthier than others.

For example, there are healthy foods with mixed carbohydrates like bananas which contain both natural fruit sugar fructose (simple carb) and dietary fibers (complex carbs).

Below Is A List Of Some Complex Carbs:

Carbohydrates: Do You Need Them? Complex Carb List

What If I Eliminated Carbohydrates From My Diet?

If carbohydrates are eliminated from your diet your body undergoes ketosis. A process where fats are used alternatively for energy due to low levels of carbs or blood sugars available. Ketosis is a sought after metabolic process desired by many. Who doesn’t want to burn off fat? In addition to fat and weight control, benefits of low carbs includes improved digestion and can protect against some diseases. However, there are reported drawbacks associated with it.

4 Side Effects Of Inadequate Carbohydrate Intake

  • Constipation – Your body requires more water when carb intake is low. Not consuming enough water causes dehydration which leads to additional water absorption from the colon resulting in constipation.
  • Fatigue – Fluids and vital minerals are lost with low carb consumption. Insufficient carb intake leads to fatigue along with other adverse symptoms.
  • Hypoglycemia – Is a condition where blood sugar dips below normal levels. A direct effect of inadequate carbohydrate consumption. Hypoglycemia symptoms includes shakiness, sweating, dizziness, headaches, and anxiety.
  • Bad Mood – Eating carbs indirectly increases a hormone called serotonin. This hormone also known as the “happy chemical” plays a critical role in regulating your mood. Low levels of serotonin has also been linked to depression, anxiety, OCD, and PTSD.

How Many Carbs Should I Eat?

How Many Carbs Should I Eat?

Dietary guidelines recommends 60 percent of your daily caloric intake should come from carbohydrates. For instance: on a 2000 calorie diet, you should consume 300g of carbohydrates. However, the recommended guidelines are subjective and might not be right for you.

” 1 gram of carbohydrates = 4 calories”

Carbohydrate Consumption Will Vary From Person To Person.

An individuals goals, age, metabolism, body type, activity level, and gender are some influential factors to consider when calculating how much carbs to eat. For example: men are generally larger with more muscle mass compared to females and muscle tissues burn more calories. Therefore, an average male will likely tolerate a lot more carbs than a female.

The key is to stick with healthy complex carbs…especially if you are practicing a low carb diet such as the Atkins diet. This will allow you to maximize your nutritional intake. Then you must establish your personal goals.

Use weight management tools like this calorie calculator below and determine if you wish to lose weight, gain weight, or simply maintain. 

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Scenario: A woman wishing to lose weight with low activity levels.

An average American woman weighs roughly 170 pounds and stands at 5 feet 3 inches tall. Maintaining 170 pounds with low activity requires an intake that’s little over 2300 daily calories. Based on recommended guidelines, 1380 (or 345g) of the 2300 calories should consist of carbohydrate intake. 

Start slow and adjust carb intake over a period of time.

Begin by reducing carbs from 345g to 245g. Allow your body time to adjust. Then gradually decrease carb intake over time. Most experience ketosis when carb intake is consistently below 50g per day. Through trial and error you will learn a lot about yourself and how your body reacts through the adjustment periods.

Lastly it’s important to understand the best approach to any healthy lifestyle changes should include exercising. Aerobic and strength training will not only enhance your fitness endeavors but are also packed with excellent health benefits.

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