The truth about carbs

Hi guys

This week I’m talking about one of our favourite subjects; food.
There is some crazy diet advice out there. Type “diets” into Google and you’ll be amazed what comes up: Victoria Beckham only eats Japanese food, someone else eats seaweed smoothies and if you can’t face that, there’s always the opportunity to buy a box of “miracle” diet pills.

Total, utter rubbish.
These “fad” diets are doomed to failure. They make you feel:
- too restricted about the kind of food you can eat.
- like you just haven’t had enough to eat.

In either case it’s not long before you’re hunting through the biscuit cupboard looking for salvation. The key to any diet is longevity. If you can’t sustain it happily, without bingeing on cakes and sweets to make yourself feel better, then it’s not going to work.

This week I want to talk about one aspect of a healthy diet: Carbohydrate.
For an active person, carbohydrate (carbs) should form about 60% of your diet, which is a touch higher than for people who live more sedentary lifestyles. The reason being that carbohydrate is your main source of fuel for physical activity. Your body will convert it into glucose, which your bloodstream transports around the body to whatever muscles you’re working. These muscles then store it as glycogen.

There are two forms of carbohydrate – simple and complex. They enter the bloodstream at different rates to be converted to glycogen for energy. Simple carbs enter the bloodstream quickly, giving you an immediate sugar high, followed by an inevitable low. Complex carbs are slow-release and the energy is released gradually around your body.

In the UK we consume a large amount of simple carbs from concentrated sugars such as those you find in chocolate bars, biscuits, cakes, sugary breakfasts, buns etc. When you combine this with the sedentary lifestyles that lots of people lead these days (long hours at desks, commuting, then flopping on the sofa in front of the telly) it’s unfortunately a recipe for weight gain and in the most severe cases, diabetes.

Here are a few examples of complex, slow-release carbs which you can put in your shopping trolley:

  • Wholegrain pasta
  • Wholegrain bread
  • Brown rice
  • Basmati rice
  • Porridge oats
  • Sweet potato
  • Beans
  • Noodles
  • Oatcakes

Some of you have asked me about when to eat your carbohydrates. Obviously, we all work different hours and train at different times etc. However, one general rule of thumb that I follow is to stay away from carb-heavy foods such as rice, potatoes, bread or pasta after 4pm. For dinner I have a source of protein (chicken, fish or beef) with as many vegetables as I want. Personally, I find that I feel leaner when I wake up the next morning. I’ll talk about good sources of protein in the next few weeks.
Before anyone accuses me of being the food police – I’m not. There’s no need to suddenly start eating like a monk. The key is to make gradual changes that support your training and that you can sustain over time.

As ever, give me a shout with any comments or questions.
Take it easy ,
Tony

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