- What do carbohydrates really do?
- The three types of carbohydrates
- Fructose in moderation
- The effect of carbohydrates on insulin
- When should I eat carbohydrates?
- Which foods contain carbohydrates?
- How many carbohydrates should I eat?
- Are carbohydrates healthy in the evening?
- Macronutrient Carbohydrates – The Conclusion
What do carbohydrates really do?
Carbohydrates are a macronutrient and basically have two modes of functioning: firstly, carbohydrates provide your body with fast energy because they are burned directly. Secondly, your body can also store carbohydrates in your muscles as glycogen and thus serve as an energy reserve. Carbohydrates can also be stored as an energy carrier in adipose tissue. This happens when glucose and fructose residues are converted into triglycerides in the liver and then stored in fat deposits. Therefore, what is very important to know: The amount and type of carbohydrates, and the time of ingestion, determine whether you can use the carbohydrates positively, or if you gain weight.
The three types of carbohydrates
Carbohydrates can occur in three different forms: as simple sugars, such as glucose and fructose, as double sugars, such as sucrose (table sugar), lactose and maltose and the so-called polysaccharides, i.e. long sugar chains. Starch, pectin and cellulose are multiple sugars, which are found mainly in potatoes and cereal grains.
Fructose in moderation
The fructose is often used in the industry for sweetening, as fructose is much sweeter than, for example, dextrose. However, you should be careful with the frequent consumption of fructose, since fructose is absorbed by the liver and converted into glucose. Excess glucose is then rebuilt into triglycerides, where it can be deposited as fat. In addition, without enough exercise, very high levels of fructose consumption can lead to non-alcoholic fatty liver. Fructose can also cause gastrointestinal problems in people with fructose intolerance. Smoothies and fruit juices usually contain a lot of fructose. So does agave syrup. Dried fruits, such as figs, contain a lot of fructose. So dried fruit is definitely not a good substitute for fresh fruit. Plus, important water-soluble vitamins are lost in the process of drying fruits. So always grab the fresh fruit – or eat dried fruits in moderation. Fruit with less fructose, like bananas and apricots, are good choices here. Vegetables also contain small amounts of fructose. If you have a sweet-tooth, but would like to limit your fructose and glucose intake, here is a list of alternative sweeteners for you.
The effect of carbohydrates on insulin
Eating carbohydrates causes an increase in blood sugar levels. Insulin is then released so that the body can use the carbohydrates for energy and the blood sugar level then lower again. Insulin has different tasks, for example, it opens the body’s cells for glucose. Muscles and liver cells can thus take up and store glucose or use it directly for conversion to energy. Insulin also promotes triglyceride synthesis and thus ensures that we store fat. In addition, insulin has the strongest fat reduction brake function we have in our bodies. At the same time, however, it is also a vital hormone in our body that regulates blood sugar levels. Without this regulation of blood sugar levels, there would be vascular and cell damage, which is why people with diabetes need to get insulin in other ways. Insulin is also a messenger that stimulates protein synthesis and is therefore important for muscle growth.
When should I eat carbohydrates?
Would you like to lose weight or build muscle? Then it’s good to eat carbohydrates after exercise, because that’s when your muscles are exhausted, the energy reserves are empty, and the carbohydrates can be stored as glycogen. We can use this mechanism to promote muscle growth. After intense exercise, you may even allow yourself to eat some “dirty” carbohydrates. When your blood sugar level drops dramatically as a result of high levels of insulin secretion, your body will re-regulate insulin and increase factors such as adrenaline and cortisol (a stress hormone) to counteract the effect. They ensure that the blood sugar level is raised again by attacking the reserves or causing hunger. This process can cause cravings, which in turn ensures that your blood sugar level rises again. If you eat too much sugar, you run the risk of sending your blood sugar levels on a kind of roller coaster ride. In the worst cases, this can lead to obesity and type 2 diabetes. When losing weight and building muscle, you should pay close attention to your carbohydrate intake.
Which foods contain carbohydrates?
If you eat carbohydrates, then choose carbs that don’t raise your blood sugar levels too much. The best carbohydrate sources are low carbohydrate foods such as soft fruits and vegetables. These two options also provide important trace elements that carbohydrate sources, such as bread and sweets, do not provide. Give up “empty carbs” – such as sweets, soft drinks, and white flour products – because they contain short-chain carbohydrates which raise your blood sugar level quickly and contain little to no healthy nutrients. Choose whole grains, as they contain significantly more nutrients and fiber. (Tip: You can easily determine your optimal nutritional requirements with our BMI Calculator)
How many carbohydrates should I eat?
How many carbohydrates you should eat depends not only on your weight, gender, and age, but also on your goals. In general, carbohydrates should account for between 40% and 50% of your daily macronutrient intake. If you’d like to break down fat, you can safely lower your carbohydrate intake to 20%. However, if you work out a lot, you’ll need a lot more carbs to replenish your glycogen stores, as described earlier. Use the Calorie Calculator to determine exactly how many carbohydrates you need.
Are carbohydrates healthy in the evening?
Basically, it depends on which carbohydrates you eat. Of course, chips, sweets, and fried foods after 6 pm are unhealthy – but they are also unhealthy before 6 pm. Whole grain bread and fruit, however, are not fattening in the evening. If you pay attention to your daily caloric requirements, and choose healthy foods, then carbs in the evening will not make you fat. Generally you should not eat too late in the evening – 2-3 hours before going to bed is fine. As already mentioned, it depends much more on the amount and the type of food you eat. If your macronutrient distribution is right and you aren’t eating too many calories, there is nothing standing between you and reaching your desired weight.
Macronutrient Carbohydrates - The conclusion
Carbohydrates are important energy sources that are either directly burned or stored. The more active you are, the more carbs you can and should consume. If you don’t lead a very active lifestyle, you should limit your consumption of carbohydrates, particularly short-chain carbohydrates, i.e. simple sugars such as glucose and fructose.