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  • Writer's pictureEmmanuel Ofori

What are Carbohydrates?

Understanding Carbs: The most talked about Macronutrient

Carbohydrates, often referred to as carbs, are a type of macronutrient that provides energy, much like proteins and fats. Glucose, a simple form of carbohydrate, is the body's primary source of energy. Through a process called glycolysis, glucose is metabolized into pyruvate, generating ATP molecules, which are the body's energy carriers. During physical activity, this process repeats until the glycolytic pathway tires out after about 45 seconds to 3 minutes. After that, the body either rests or turns to other fuel sources.

All carbohydrates eventually break down into glucose, except for dietary fiber, which the body can't digest. Excess glucose is stored as glycogen, a complex glucose structure, chain of glucose molecules, with a storage limit of around 500 to 1200 grams. Any surplus glucose beyond this is converted into fat. Maintaining stable blood glucose levels is crucial for energy availability. When carb levels are low, the body breaks down glycogen into glucose (glycogenolysis) or converts non-carb substances like lactate and pyruvate into glucose (gluconeogenesis). When both blood glucose and glycogen stores are depleted, the body enters ketosis, where ketone bodies become the main energy source.

The debate over "good" and "bad" carbs centers on processed foods rich in simple sugars- monosaccharides and disaccharides. These carbs are not inherently bad but easily digested and calorie-dense. In contrast, "good" carbs from sources like oatmeal and whole wheat bread are considered good due to dietary fiber or complex carbohydrates they possess. Complex carbs are slow to digest and reduce calorie intake. In general, moderation is key because an excess amount of calorie consumption, regardless of the fuel source, leads to weight gain.

The recommended carb intake is around 45% to 65% of daily calories intake, roughly 225 to 325 grams on a 2,000 calorie diet. Timing carb consumption can benefit different goals as well. Aiming for strength- before a workout is ideal. If recovery is the goal- after a workout will assist glycogen replenishment. Consuming enough fiber and adequate protein will be key for weight management. Including nutritious carbs in your diet can contribute positively to overall health.

Carbs often get a bad reputation but if you select the right timing, source and quantity, your fitness and health goals are right around the corner.  If you’re not sure where to start, reach out to your friendly fitness professional. 

Emmanuel Ofori - eMotivates 

Your Friendly Neighbourhood Fitness Professional

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