Saturday, 14 January 2012

Carbohydrates make you fat

Well, that's not 100% true, but too many carbohydrates (carbs) make you fat.
Here in Denmark, there is a lot of focus on eating the right kind of fats, and not getting the wrong kind of fats, so if people are looking at the product labels, it's most often to check how much fat it contains, and not carbs.
Why should you look at the carbs, if you're trying to lose weight ? Well, let me tell you why.

How Carbs work:
Carbohydrates are the basic fuel for your body, just like a car needs petrol or diesel. There are normal carbs and complex carbs, and the simplest kind of carbs are called glucose (often called blood-sugar and dextrose).
Glucose flows through your bloodstream and is available to your body's cells, where it is transformed into energy.
It doesn't matter where you get your carbs from, whether it be sugar, bread, or fruit, it all turns into blood sugar. But after eating a meal, full of carbs, the glucose in your bloodstream rises, and your pancreas secretes a large amount of insulin, to keep the blood glucose levels from rising too high.

The insulin takes glucose from the bloodstream and converts it into a starch called glycogen, which is then stored in the liver and in the muscles. Unfortunately, the body can only store a limited amount of glycogen, so the excess glucose, which can't be stored in the liver and muscles are stored as body fat. This is how you gain weight.

When your blood sugar gets back to normal, the insulin level in your bloodstream is still near maximum. This results in the insulin continuing to stack glucose away as body fat, and ultimately, the level of glucose in your blood falls below normal, and you start to feel hungry again.
You eat another snack of carbs, and the process starts again.
So you start getting fatter, but at the same time, still feel hungry. At some point you'll build up some insulin resistance caused by continually high insulin levels, which will impair your ability to turn on a satiety center in your brain.
You enter a vicious cycle of continuous weight gain combined with hunger.. No wonder it's difficult to lose weight.

What are we to do then ?
Well, even though I wrote earlier that it doesn't matter where you get your carbs from, it's not entirely true. We are so lucky, that there's something called Glucose Index (or GI), which is a measure of how quickly the carbs in foods break down, and release glucose into the bloodstream upon ingestion. Foods with carbs that break down quickly, such as sweets, have a high GI, and foods with carbs that break down slowly, or with low carb content, have a low GI.
The GI Scala is from 0 to 100. Foods with a GI value of 55 or less are considered low GI; between 55 and 69 are medium; and 70 and up are high GI.

If you want ideas of what to eat, have a look here at Men's Fitness UK's nutrition site.

So next time you go out shopping, don't just look at the fat, but look at the carbs as well :)


References:
- DiabetesHealth.com
- HowStuffWorks.com
- The GI diet Guide