No Carb Diet

My daughter came home recently insisting she was going on a no carb diet after the new year because she had put too much weight on, that might be okay if all you intend to do is sit and vegetate but the fact is we all need essential nutrients in our diet and one of those are carbohydrates. Personally, I’ve never agreed with diets as most people go back to their old ways, I’d much rather see a change or moderation in eating habits as that’s easier to maintain and more likely to last.

Fad diets often focus on increasing or decreasing your carbohydrate intake. So what’s the truth about carbohydrates and your health?

Carbohydrates are a critical fuel source for the muscle, central nervous system and in particular your brain. The blood must supply the brain with glucose as it does not have the ability to store it.

Carbohydrates are found in foods such as breads, cereals, fruit, vegetables (corn, pumpkin, potatoes, and peas), rice, legumes and dairy products.

The nutrients provide us with energy, which is measured in kilojoules or calories.

The amount of energy delivered by the nutrients is:

  • Carbohydrates: 16 kJ per gram
  • Protein: 17 kJ per gram
  • Fat: 37 kJ per gram
  • Alcohol: 27 kJ per gram

Why do people want to cut carbohydrates out of their diet to lose weight when they actually provide the least amount of energy? And why do we want carbohydrates for energy for activity if other nutrients provide more kilojoules?

The answer is that carbohydrates are the preferred source of energy for burning by our body. We have a carbohydrate store called glycogen in our muscles which is essential for brain function. As a  result, carbohydrates are going to help us perform at our best during activity, while high-kilojoules foods such as fat make us feel sluggish, as they take much longer to digest and tend to be stored as body fat.

If you consume too much carbohydrate, e.g. a large bowl of pasta or adding bread to a meal that already has potatoes – then you run the risk of consuming too many kilojoules relative to what our body can burn. That is when we need to reduce the serving size of carbohydrate to fit our energy output.

Try having just one carbohydrate source at the meal. If you need lots of extra energy for your physical activity and / or need to put on body weight, you may need to increase the quantity of carbohydrates eaten.

We all need to eat the carbohydrate foods spread out over the day. We simply need to modify the quantity to suit us.

And so, carbohydrates have many essential functions;

They provide energy, heat, maintenance of brain function, regulate fat metabolism and provide dietary fibre.

The lack of carbohydrate in your diet can lead to general weakness, fatigue and lower blood sugar levels. Resulting in dizziness, palpitations and brain function disorders. In severe cases, can cause low blood sugar coma.

But it’s all about balance, with too many carbohydrates in the diet; they will translate into fat stored in the body, which may lead to all kinds of diseases such as obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes. Carbohydrate is the main source of energy and comprises the main bulk of the average human diet. For your brain, heart and nervous system to function properly, a constant supply of carbohydrate is needed.

Once digestion has occurred, all forms of carbohydrate are converted into a sugar called glucose. Glucose is the main source of energy for muscles and other parts of the body. Before you workout you need to ensure your muscles are well fuelled.

How much you need depends on how active you are. The more active you are the more carbohydrate you need to fuel your muscles. A good guide to whether you are eating enough is how energetic you feel during your workout. If you fatigue easily, then this suggests that your glycogen levels are low and your carbohydrate intake is insufficient.

This may seem long winded but it really is just a short introduction into a complex subject.

But basically like we’ve said before, everything in moderation.