Love them or hate them? Carbs are our bodies primary source of fuel, and the only macronutrient the brain recognises as energy.
Do not be afraid of carbs! Carbohydrates are a huge food group encompassing starchy, sugary foods, (pastas, grains, bread, potatoes, rice) and also all fruits and vegetables and we absolutely need them; just the RIGHT ONES, AT THE RIGHT TIMES.
The timing of carbs is really important, because when carbs are digested, blood sugar is raised. It rises quickly the more sugary, then starchy the food is. Good fibre in the food results in a gentler rise. Protein is also important as when protein is being digested too it helps slows the rate of the carb blood sugar rise.
The speed at which our blood sugar rises matters, as levels of insulin are released by the pancreas to bring it levels back down. When insulin is released, the body opens its fat cells to store as much surplus carb as possible whilst it has the chance, and converts it to fat.
Your muscles and liver hold approx 500kcal of carbs at any time, ready for use as energy. If there’s any extra it goes into fat storage. So EXCESS CARBS ARE QUICKLY STORED AS FAT – and that is more difficult to burn as fuel, without being in calorie / energy deficit.
Going back to sugary and starchy foods, a quick rise and drop in insulin levels causes an energy surge and then crash. Tiredness, cravings and hunger soon follow. You will be on an up and down rollercoaster which is difficult to get off!
So, for energy, be sure to have topped up your carb stores in your muscles before exercise, and to replenish after for recovery. Other than for exercise, consuming your carbs early in the day is always better, so you have a chance to use the carbs up in your daily activities. Starchy carbs later in the day though is a little different….
With clients looking for weight loss I endorse no starchy carbs after 3pm (unless you are exercising in the evening), as you are unlikely to use them, and they will just sit, be surplus, and be stored as fat.
Don’t avoid carbs completely though. They provide much nutrition, energy, and really importantly are our source of fibre. Continue with your non starchy vegetable carbs in the evening. They are filling, packed with nutrition and provide all important fibre. Avoid sugary and especially processed foods completely – which usually contain ’empty’ calories, with little benefit other than a quick energy that then drops you in a hole.
Does that help? Give me a shout for anything I can answer to help!