What is carbohydrate.
Like proteins and fats, carbohydrate, or carbs, is an energy providing macronutrient. In fact, carbohydrates, in the form of glucose, is your body’s first choice of energy production. Through a tricky but quick process known as glycolysis, your body metabolizes glucose into pyruvate. During this process, 2 units of the body’s energy providing molecules known as ATP is generated. During physical activity, your body repeatedly goes through this process up until 45 seconds to 3 minutes where the glycolytic pathway begins to fatigue. From then on, you will either need to rest or your body will tap into other fuel sources.
All carbs are eventually metabolized into the simple sugar glucose, with the exception of dietary fiber since the body isn’t able to break it down. Excess glucose in the body is stored in the form of glycogen, which is simply glucose molecules chained together into branches. Unfortunately, there’s a limit to how much glycogen can be stored, which caps at about 500 to 1200 grams. All other excess glucose is then metabolized into fat. Maintaining blood glucose levels is really important to your body to ensure you have energy readily available. Whenever your body is low on carbs, it breaks down glycogen into glucose in a process known as glycogenolysis or metabolize non-carb substances such as lactate and pyruvate into glucose in a process known as gluconeogensis. At the point where your body depletes both glucose in the bloodstream and all of its glycogen stores, the body begins to transition into a state known as ketosis. In this state, compounds known as ketone bodies becomes the main source of energy. Touted for its fat-burning attributes, getting into the state of ketosis has become popular with low and no carb diet programs. Whether this is safe, or even more effective than glucose, is still debated to this day.
But are all carbs created equal? A rising concern in today’s world is the overconsumption of the so-called “bad” carbs from processed foods such as fast food and children’s cereal. But the problem is not so much that these carbs are “bad,” in fact, they’re not really bad at all, they are just carbs in its simplest forms known as monosaccharide and disaccharides, which are the same sugars found in fruits and dairy. In fact, glucose is a monosaccharide and we all know how important glucose is to our body. The problem with processed foods is that it contains too many of these monosaccharides in a single serving. Since these carbs are in its simplest form, it’s relatively easy to digest and to digest a lot in one meal, which pushes your calorie intake up. And as we’ve discussed before, the more calories you consume, the more weight you will gain. The so-called “good carbs” that come from foods such as oatmeal and whole wheat bread, are simply considered “good” either because they contain dietary fiber, which will make you feel fuller while consuming fewer calories, or they contain complex carbohydrates such as polysaccharides which takes longer to digest. If moderation is taken into consideration, having some of these “bad” carbs isn’t going to do much harm, in fact, they come very handy if you need a quick boost of energy.
As far as how many carbs you consume, you should shoot for roughly 45 to 65% of your daily calories. On a standard 2,000 calorie diet, that’s roughly 225 to 325 grams per day. If you’re trying to get stronger, consuming carbs before your workout might help with a few extra reps. If you’re performing endurance activities, carbs right after will help replenish glycogen levels. If you’re trying to lose weight, eating fiber-containing carbs and more protein will help bring the calories down. And if you’re trying to keep the doctor away, a delicious carb-loaded apple might come save your day!