The importance of carbs

Posted by Channel 6
April 2, 2012

In the second part of the series on weight management, Revanth Katta talks about the right intake of carbs.

On a daily basis our body requires three essential nutrients — Carbohydrates, Protein and Fats. Each nutrient has a specific function in supplying our body with fuel to run and plays an important part in weight management. We have already talked about the importance of proteins, here we take up the issue of carbohydrates.

Carbohydrates are the main sources of energy requirement and constitute a major part of our diet. Carbs are broken down into glucose which is the ready form of energy utilised by our body. It is the fuel of our body, excess of which is converted into fat for future needs.

Glucose is the only major nutrient that can enter the brain and control our hunger by manipulating our insulin levels. Insulin management is the key to weight loss. Simply put, an erratic increase in insulin levels makes us hungry often and we end up eating more with those extra calories ending up as fat. Carbs are the only nutrients that can directly manipulate the insulin levels in our body.

Simple carbs like sweets, chocolates, sweetened aerated drinks, ice creams etc. raise our blood sugar levels abruptly, forcing the body to secrete high amounts of insulin to bring down the steep rise in blood sugar levels. This results in an abrupt fall in blood sugars and forces the body to think that we need more food to compensate the fall in blood sugar. Thus, the brain signals that we are hungry again and we end up eating more, and the cycle of obesity kick starts. This is the physiology of hunger pangs we experience, especially in the evenings and nights after snacking on desserts.

To arrest erratic insulin surges, we need to consume more of unprocessed complex carbohydrates, which are slow to digest, providing our body with a constant supply of energy thought the day. Complex carbs like oats, ragi, quinoa, sweet potato etc. help us avoid hunger pangs by filling us up for longer time. People who want efficient fat loss should source a majority of their carbohydrate requirements from vegetable and fruit sources such as broccoli, zucchini, mushrooms, lettuce, peppers, tomatoes, strawberries, guava, watermelon, etc.

Timing the consumption of carbs is essential in preventing carbs from converting into fat. We require more carbs in our breakfast and at lunch as we stay active during the day and need a constant supply of energy. At dinner, we should restrict carbs as we don’t require much energy during our sleep. Consuming excess carbs at dinner time directs the unutilised energy into the fat stores.

Typically our intake of carbs should decrease as the day proceeds. This is the reason why nutritionists say that breakfast should be heavy with complex carbohydrate loading and dinners should be light.

Another window where we can consume more carbohydrates is during our post exercise diet. During an intense exercise regimen, our body is robbed of stored glycogen (glucose stored in the muscle) and it needs to be replenished immediately after the exercise for the growth and repair of the muscles. Thus the chance of carbs converting into fat is restricted.
In a nutshell, consume carbs only when you can spend it off before
you sleep.

The author is a Fitness Specialist and a Personal Trainer. He also runs Revz Institute of Fitness Research and can be reached at revz.fr@gmail.com.

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