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nutrition
Jul 02, 2015

Carbophobia

A ear of carbs

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Carbophobia - a fear of carbs....

Ok I may have just made up that word  but it does seem to be a real thing due to lots of 'low carb' and 'carb free' diets. There are many myths about, such as 'you shouldn't eat carbs in the evening', or 'training in the morning on an empty stomach will burn fat'. It is so easy to get confused so here is what I believe and the science behind it (plus, I've been through it myself).

Your body gets energy from food and specifically there are 3 major sources, these are called macronutrients (fats, carbohydrates and protein). The food is then broken down into micronutrients that your body can use. Proteins are  converted into amino acids, fats into fatty acids and carbohydrates into sugars. The carbohydrates, and specifically the sugar, causes your blood sugar to rise which in turn causes the hormone insulin to be released. The insulin tells the body to start storing the sugar from your blood. The first place this energy is stored is in your muscles as glycogen. Your body does not magically convert carbohydrates straight to fat depending on the time of day and so it doesn't matter whether the food is eaten at 6am or 6pm, it is only when these stores are filled that the body will start converting the excess energy into fat.

If you totally cut carbs out of your diet or try to exercise on an empty stomach, the glycogen stores in your muscles will be low meaning you won’t be able to exercise effectively (which might actually harm your fitness goals). While it is true that your body will look to other sources of energy, without carbohydrates, it isn’t just fat that is used, it is also protein from your muscles. This means that as you go on you will be getting weaker and losing muscle mass as well as having less energy.

Low carb diets can cause you to be constantly tired, irritable and with no energy (because you haven’t been giving your body any fuel)! Also because people have cut out many food groups by avoiding carbs they are now not getting many of the other nutrients that the body requires (vitamins, minerals and fibre).

Just remember, it is not carbohydrates that are bad (very few foods are ‘good’ or ‘bad’), it is making sure that the quality of carbohydrates we consume are good and that the amount is appropriate for our activity levels, after all carbohydrates are vital for a healthy, balanced diet.

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