"Although there is certainly no evidence from which to conclude that extreme restriction of dietary carbohydrate is harmless, I was surprised to find that there is similarly little evidence to conclude that extreme restriction of carbohydrate is harmful. In fact, the consequential breakdown of fat as a result of carbohydrate restriction may be beneficial in the treatment of obesity (7). Perhaps it is time to carefully examine the issue of whether carbohydrate is an essential component of human nutrition."
Carbohydrates are not the devil that some recent diet trends might have made you think they are—especially not when you work out. Women often don't know how many carbs per day they need. The answer: About 50 to 60 percent of the calories you eat in a day should come from carbs.
What are carbohydrates?
Carbohydrates are one of the three macronutrients in food, and you need them for energy and fuel. The others are protein (for muscle, hair, skin, organ, and tissue repair, as well as immunity) and fat (for organ cushioning, vitamin absorption, and growth). When you exercise, you need something to start your engine and keep it going, and that something comes in the form of carbs. Here's the truth about these much maligned nutrients, and how many you really need:
What happens when you eat a carb?
When you eat carbohydrates, they get broken down into sugars (glucose, fructose and galactose) and are either quickly used for energy or are stored as glycogen in your liver and muscles for use later.
How fast they get broken down depends on the type of carb you eat. Simple carbohydrates quickly get broken down into your bloodstream and give you a supercharge of energy, but leave you at a low later on. Classic examples: Fruit juice, white bread, white rice, cereals with little fiber, bagels and candy.
Complex carbohydrates contain less sugar and also have fiber, so they're broken down at a slower rate. These carbohydrates include fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. These are the ones that also help keep your cholesterol levels and weight under control.
So which do you need before exercise?
Most of the time—meaning 99% of the time—you want to fuel your body with whole grain, high fiber (3g or more) complex carbohydrates. It's like making a fire out of wood rather than newspaper.
But before and during exercise, if your workout lasts 60 to 90 minutes, the rules change. This is when you want to get your energy levels up so you have some ready fuel for your body to burn. That's when a serving—but just a serving!—of simple carbs comes in handy. Try an English muffin with jelly, a glass of juice, or a bowl of cereal. During exercise, you want your body to focus on working your muscles, not breaking down foods with lots of fiber. So contrary to what you want to do the rest of the time, at this point, you should feed your body simple sugars that are quickly absorbed and will give you bursts of energy. Just as you wouldn't start your car without gas in the engine, you shouldn't work out on empty when it comes to carbs.
What about after a workout?
You don't eat after exercise? So you just tore your muscles, depleted your store of energy and you are leaving it on empty? Not such a wise decision. The repair and re-growth of tissue relies not just on protein but also on replacing lost glycogen (broken-down carbohydrates) and fluids. Restore your body's energy with complex carbs—meaning fruit, grains, or vegetables paired with protein for muscle repair and growth. Good choices: yogurt and fruit, an apple and peanut butter, or a glass of skim chocolate milk.
The bottom line on how many carbs per day you need is that you don't need more than the average person if you exercise—and you certainly shouldn't be eating fewer. You just need to eat them wisely. That means having a serving of simple carbs before exercise and making sure that you replenish the carbs afterward, too.
1/14/11 1:11 A
Patti, do you attack all people that harshly?
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1/13/11 10:11 P
I cannot stress enough how UNHEALTHY it is to eat NO carbs. Your cells are fueled by carbs. They are what keep the mitochondria (battery of the ceel) running! If you don't give your body carbs it will take it from the only other place it can - your muscles. Not your fat, your muscles. It is basic Biology 101 ... the only way to increase your metabolism is by eating carbs. The only time carbs are not beneficial is in the evening as your body is winding down. You don't need the energy to sleep. At night keep it to veggies & protein, but otherwise a combination of GOOD carbs, fat, & protein is the KEY to maintaining blood sugar, & burning fat.
It's not a diet... It's life.
Eastern Standard Time Zone
1/13/11 9:26 P
The brain is fueled by glucose, yes the body will go to carbohydrate first to get the glucose it requires, but it is also possible to get glucose from gluconeogenesis.
I personally don't need or want to go zero carb, but on the other hand I see no problem with other people doing it, especially knowing people personally that do it without a problem.
If a person is yo-yoing with zero carb, it means they are not eating zero carb consistently. It means they are a yo-yo dieter that more than likely eats unhealthy and then uses zero carb as a quick fix, and have not grasped the concept that weight loss, regardless of the method used has to be a lifestyle change. They have deeper issues than being zero carb.
Like I said, it certainly isn't for me, but if someone else chooses to eat this way it can be healthy.
You do have to make sure you are getting all types of meat sources. That includes; eggs, fish, pork, beef, chicken and organ meats.
I also want to comment on the statement that the person is already bored with their way of eating because they asked for snack ideas. Look through the board and see how many people have the same question with regards to following sparkpeople, they are ALWAYS asking for more ideas and variety. That is not exclusive to this persons chosen method of weight loss.
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Even diabetics don't maintain a zero carb diet so why should anyone, especially if you don't have blood sugar issues? Many healthy foods (like veggies) contain carbs and are necessary in your diet for the vitamins, etc. they provide.
Depriving yourself of carbs is already causing you to be bored with your diet, which will likely make you lose motivation sooner. Choose the right carb sources and you will have better long term sucsess.
1/13/11 5:16 P
My mother does this & her yo-yoing is INCREDIBLE! We are talking losing & regaining the same 20 pounds 5 times a year! Plus her fat intake is off the charts & carbs fuel your brain! It's just not healthy or worth the risk for a quick 5lbs that you will definitely gain back!
"The belief that everything should be done perfectly or not at all is the enemy of consistency and momentum" - The Spark
Since carbohydrates is the ONLY fuel for the brain and the source to fill one's glycogen (energy stores), it would be extremly difficult or impossible for an endurance athlete to be able to perform adequately on a ZERO carb diet. AND dangerous! Dietitian Becky
Edited by: DIETITIANBECKY at: 1/13/2011 (19:35)
1/13/11 4:27 P
I wanted to share a picture of a guy that is pretty much zero carb. He is just 'so unhealthy' it hurts my eyes to look at him.
ZERO carbs is very unhealthy! Yes, you have lost weight, much of it is water on this type diet. If you continue on this journey of NO CARBS you will start to feel drained, dizzy, unable to concentrate as your energy stores drop lower and lower and you are not providing any fuel for your brain. Please check out your SP carb range and use this as a MINIMUM
Everyone loses a lot of weight instantly on the zero carb diet. Your body needs water to turn the glycogen (carb) in the muscles into energy for you. If you aren't providing carbs in your diet it immediately reduces how much glycogen it can hold, and thereby how much water it holds too. The immediate "great loss" experienced by everyone doing zero carb is water. Not fat.
Zero carb is horribly unhealthy. Please consider immediately upping your carb intake. While there is some debate as to whether "low carb" is healthy or not, there is no debate about zero carb. It's harmful. Your body (and your brain!!) needs carbs.
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