Good Carbs and Bad Carbs?
Good Carbs and Bad Carbs?
When trawling through the endless supply of health and fitness advice available to us we can sometimes become baffled by conflicting reports on what exactly we should be consuming in order to maximise performance. One such issue is that of carbohydrates or carbs.
Carbohydrates are the primary fuel source for your brain, heart, nervous system and muscles. Your choice on which carbs to consume can lead to increased energy, decreased hunger and good health. Conversely, it could lead to energy spikes followed by fatigue and increased hunger. Herein lies the dilemma, what are the best sources of carbohydrates for us to consume? Let’s look at this in more detail.
White rice, white breads, white pasta, sweets, crisps, biscuits, cake, sugared cereals – they all taste great and they are all carbs but are not the best choices. Don’t get me wrong, of course you can fit them into your nutritional plan but they are not optimal choices. Smarter choices include oats, brown rice, quinoa, couscous, barley, whole-grain breads, fruits, vegetables and sweet potatoes. These ‘good’ carbs are called ‘complex carbs’ but what is it that makes them good carbs compared to their counterparts, the ‘simple carbs’?
Whole grain foods, fruit and vegetables are highly-nutritious sources of essential vitamins and minerals and are also a source of slow-digesting fiber. They help in maintaining optimal energy levels and keeping your appetite in check for hours. Simple carbs on the other hand are poor sources of nutrients. After consuming simple carbs your blood glucose levels quickly spike. This leads to a short burst of energy followed by a swift dip, leaving you feeling tired and lacking energy. As I mentioned previously, these simple carbs can have a time and a place. If you need a quick boost of energy in a short time frame prior to exercise then sometimes an easily digested simple carb might be just what you need to give you that energy hit.
Have a look at the graph below at how both Simple and Complex carbohydrates release their energy (Blood Glucose Levels) in the body over time.
You will notice how the Simple Carbohydrate line peaks early and then drops off sharply. This can be seen as a burst of energy followed by a feeling of tiredness or feeling sluggish. The knock on effect of this is you will get cravings later on in order to restore your energy levels.
On the other hand, the Complex Carbohydrate line peaks at a much more gradual rate and also drops off at a gradual rate. This leads to a more sustained and constant level of energy and a much lower chance of getting cravings later in the day.
Knowing all this should allow you to control your cravings, perform better in your chosen sport or pastime and also to be more productive throughout your day.