Carbohydrate Cheat Sheet

This little doozy of an article will provide some quick guidelines about the often misunderstood macronutrient, carbohydrates.

What Role Do They Play In The Body?

Carbohydrates are effectively fuel for the body. In it’s simplest form, carbs become sugars which float around the bloodstream providing us with energy. With this in mind, the speed at which carbohydrates are broken down is dependent on its composition.

Are There Different Types?

Carbs can be broken down into 3 categories –

  1. Fibre-rich – Legumes, fruit and vegetables. These foods are made up of a high portion of fibre as well as being low in simple sugars, meaning absorption occurs slowly and blood sugar levels are maintained at a steady level (which is desirable). Furthermore, the fibre content coupled with the fact they are loaded with nutrients, helps to control hunger.
  2. Starchy carbs – Potatoes, oats, pasta and quinoa (apparently not pronounced kwee-no-ah). This poor guys cops the brunt of the harsh criticism around carbs. These foods are slightly lower in fibre and nutrient content when compared to their ‘fibre-rich’ brothers, though are extremely useful around a workout.
  3. Refined sugary carbs – Processed nutrition bars, sports drinks and dried fruits. These cats are packed full of simple sugars whilst being low in fibre and nutrients. Unfortunately, supermarkets are burgeoning with this type of carbohydrate, so be wary.

When Should I Eat Them?

Fibre-rich carbohydrates should form the base of your carb pyramid and can be eaten at anytime.

Starchy carbs are ideal during the 3 hour window following a workout, training or relatively heavy physical activity. Muscles are most responsive during this time and will use the macronutrient most effectively, for purposes such as glycogen replenishment.

Refined sugary carbs should be kept to a bare minimum. However, if you must get your Oreo fix, try to do so in that post-workout period.

Regardless of the type, carbohydrates should always be eaten in combination with a serving of healthy fats and protein. This helps to ensure a balanced macronutrient uptake, while also helping to prevent sharp blood sugar level spikes.

How Much Should I Eat?

Quantity of carbohydrates differs from person to person due to a number of factors. Individuals who should consume higher quantities include:

  • Those who are lean (low body fat) and have a high level of physical fitness.
  • People who perform frequent physical activity – laborious work, workout daily…
  • Those who perform intense physical activity – heavy resistance training, sprinting…

Of course, lower carbohydrates should be consumed by those who don’t fit into the above framework, i.e.:

  • Those with higher levels of body fat and lower physical fitness.
  • Individuals who work a sedentary job, such as desk work.

That’s A Wrap!

Ehrmm…

I hope this provides you with a better insight into the energy packed macronutrient. Please post in the comments below if you have any queries regarding the content. Stay tuned for other cheat sheets!

“The lack of carbohydrates can make you a little crazy”

-Tom Hardy

By Andrew Cammarano

References

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-nutrient-timing

http://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/everyone/basics/carbs.html

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