Q: I’ve managed to break the habits of a lifetime and differentiate between good and bad fats, and now it’s time to focus in on carbs. Can you give some advice on choosing the best carbohydrate sources?
A: Sure thing. When it comes to choosing the right types of carbohydrate, it pays to have a little knowledge about the different categories that are available. Carbs can be divided into two basic categories; simple and complex. Simple carbs consists of a single sugar molecule (monosaccharide) or two single sugar molecules linked together (disaccharide). Because they have an uncomplicated make-up, simple carbs are quickly released into the blood-stream, causing a rapid rise in blood sugar. The body responds to this by releasing a large amount of insulin, which removes glucose from the blood-stream to cells to be used as energy. Now, high blood sugar and insulin are not what a person trying to get lean wants because they can actually make you fatter. This is due to the fact that the body overproduces the insulin, which activates fat storage enzymes. The bottom line on simple carbs, then, is that you must eat them sparingly if you want to create a lean physique. Of course, some simple carbs are in the form of fruit. For the reasons stated above you’ll want to eat these moderately when on a fat loss program.
Complex carbohydrates are formed when thousands of sugar molecules are linked together in long chains. Naturally, these chains take longer to break down in the body than do simple carbs. Complex carbs are further divided into starchy and fibrous types. Starch is the form of energy storage found in plants. Foods like potatoes, grains, yams, bread and cereals are starchy carbohydrate foods. Fiber is the part of a plant that is not absorbed by the body. Its function is to promote healthy digestion and elimination and to act as an all round internal cleanser. Because fibrous foods are low in total calories they are also very valuable in promoting fat loss. Vegetables such as broccoli, lettuce, asparagus and green beans are all fibrous carbohydrates.
Now comes the really important part. When a carbohydrate is refined, it begins to lose it’s complexity and starts to resemble a simple carbohydrate. Carb foods made with white flour are a case in point. They are processed in the same way as simple carbs and, so, have no place in a bodybuilder’s diet. Refined sugars are even worse. Avoid them like the plague.
So, what’s the take home on carbs? Minimize your intake of simple carbs while eating plenty of starchy and fibrous carbs. Totally avoid refined carbs and anything made from white flour. Aim to get about 60% of your total daily calories from good sources of carbohydrate.