Are carbs the work of the devil?!

I was listening to radio 2 on the way into work one morning this week & Chris Evans was interviewing Dr Moseley (of TV programme Horizon fame).

He is in an enviable position to be able to test & follow up on current theories & research relating to exercise & diet issues.

He’s currently promoting the blood sugar diet plan he has out, which is very much in vogue with the ‘anti sugar’ brigade at the moment.

Whilst we are aware of some of the negative affects of processed & refined sugars, carbohydrates (carbs) DO have a place within a balanced food plan.

What worries me is that a lot of people tend to take things to extremes & blanket ALL carbs as bad.

In truth it makes sense for the majority to label things ‘bad’ or ‘good’ & for there not to be any grey areas in-between. Of course, whilst it might make it easier to understand, it’s just not as cut & dried like that!

It is true that most of us eat too much carbs, but be aware there are different types & they react within your body.

The processed/refined carbs (and some fruit sugars) are typically fast acting into the blood stream. This can be useful when instant energy is needed, but less so when there’s an over abundance.

The body is always trying to maintain homeostasis (a balance) so it will either use it instantly from the bloodstream, store what it receives, or release energy from stores. Some is stored for energy later within the muscle & liver, & some within fat stores.

It helps to have an awareness of how quick some foods are absorbed into the blood stream. You might of heard of the glycemic index or loading, which suggests how quickly the food affects our blood sugar levels.

As we learnt earlier, some foods act quick & some slower. The advantages of the quick acting is that it’s instantly available, but the advantage of slower release (lower GI) is that it can give a more even release over time.

You will get less sugar spikes up & down & therefore less of a rollercoaster of energy, that I see quite frequently, with clients food logs.

It’s worth noting here also that foods combined can also interact with absorption rates. So for example jacket potato has a high absorption rate, but add the tuna & mayo & that will slow that response.

Here I feel it’s important to note also about the QUALITY of the carbs. Ideally you want foods that have good nutrients as well, so that might mean; brown rice rather than white, sweet potato as opposed to normal, wholewheat pasta as opposed to white refined, as an example.

Here timing of eating is important. There’s a lot of positive research on fasting too.

It depends obviously what your goals are. It can be something as simple as closing your window of eating to 12 hours rather than grazing early morning to late in the day, or something a bit more involved by doing a 5 days normal, 2 days low calorie.

I always used to recommend little & often eating but of course you are always topping up your blood sugars- great for working out & activity, less so for fat loss as the body doesn’t have to relinquish its fat stores so much.

Remembering here also it’s a matter of energy balance & a deficit for loss.

Ultimately it’s about you finding what not only suits you personally but also what ‘works’ for you in terms of energy requirements, body composition change needs & overall wellbeing.

So it pays not to look at all carbs being the work of the devil, merely just being aware of the types & how you can manipulate them to suit your needs!

Best wishes, Stu.