A lot of research has been done on the, previously, unassuming carbohydrate. But, what are they exactly, what do they do in the body, are they even important and how do you count them?
Carbs are sugar-based molecules that break down inside the body to create glucose and can be found in most foods in the form of simple or complex carbohydrates.
As the name suggests, simple carbs refer to sugars with a simple molecular structure. The body processes these quickly, which results in an energy high, making you feel almost invincible and full of beans. But, what goes up, must come down, and the high is quickly followed by a low, making you feel flat and lethargic. This constant yo-yo effect can play havoc on your moods.
Refined sugars are found in a multitude of processed, packaged and fast food items, which are used to flavour and stimulate our palate for sweet foods – to keep us coming back for more.
Fruit, milk and other dairy products are also simple carbohydrates.
Complex carbohydrates are sugars with a complex molecular structure of three or more parts. The body takes longer to break these down to produce the glucose it needs for energy. Whole grains, oats, pasta, rice (especially brown rice), potatoes, beans, lentils and chickpeas are all complex carbs.
We have three macronutrients in our diet that provide us with the energy needed for growth, metabolism, and various other body functions – these are fat, protein and carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates, however, are completely non-essential for life. They only serve two functions in the body – to be burned as a source of energy or to be stored as fat.
Humans can’t survive without a constant supply of glucose, though, as this is the primary source of energy for the brain, muscles, and other vital cells. But, glucose can be produced by the liver from fat and protein and doesn’t need to be ingested as carbohydrates.
This process is called “gluconeogenesis”; the production of “new glucose” (glucose that is not ingested, but produced from fat and protein.)
In fact, fat is the body’s preferred fuel.
A high blood glucose concentration is toxic for human tissues because glucose damages the structure of all proteins, which, as mentioned earlier, are imperative for our health.
To counteract this, the body secretes insulin, via the pancreas, whenever a carbohydrate is ingested. This ingested glucose will either be used immediately as fuel, or if this doesn’t occur, it will be stored as fat, firstly in the liver, before it is transported to the fat tissues for storage as fat.
Insulin also prevents fat from being used as fuel, hence it is both a fat building and fat storage hormone.
The efficiency with which these processes occur in each of us is determined by the degree to which we are either insulin resistant or insulin sensitive.
Insulin Sensitivity (IS) is the degree to which cells respond to a particular dose of insulin by lowering blood glucose levels. In other words, it is the sensitivity of cells to the effects of insulin.
Insulin Resistance (IR) is a condition in which the body does not respond to insulin properly. This is the most common cause of type 2 diabetes.
The grams of carbs ingested each day must either be used every 24 hours as a fuel or they must be stored as fat in the fat tissues, or as glycogen in the muscles and liver.
People with IR have a reduced capacity to burn carbs as a fuel, both during exercise and when at rest, or to store it as glycogen.
The sad fact is that IR does not improve with age, it is likely to get progressively worse.
So, those with IR can only ever control their weight and health if they restrict the number of grams of carbs they eat each day.
In order for the body to convert from a carb burning state to a fat burning state, we need to change the way we eat.
Carbs actively drive hunger, because they are empty calories, so by reducing the number of carbs to between 25g and 50g (depending on your insulin resistance), by following the Banting healthy eating plan, neither your appetite nor your insulin secretion will be stimulated, and you will lose weight and start to reverse all the harmful ailments that have occurred with excessive carb consumption.
It is important to note that the Banting diet is a lifestyle and thus needs to be followed for life, due to the fact that insulin resistance cannot be reversed.
At Real Meal Revolution, we’ve designed some amazing software as part of our online weight loss program that allows you to not only track your meals so that you can keep track of your daily carb intake, and store recipes, but to find the carb counts of more than 8 thousand foods.
By finding out how many carbs are in the meals you eat on a daily basis, you will begin to understand where you are going right, and wrong, with your food choices. Tracking your meals in our meal tracker, will visually show you what you are consuming – in the beginning you will probably get a few shocking surprises!
Below is an overview of a week of Banting from our program. The system allows you to enter any recipe that you may use regularly, to save you time from entering so much information after every meal. As a bonus, we’ve pre-entered every official Real Meal Revolution recipe. Therefore, if you’re eating from our books or the program, you can track in seconds.
Here we have an image of a day of meals, with the total number of carbs, fat and protein for the day. Remember that it is a low-carb high-fat (LCHF) diet – which means that you need to focus on healthy fats from sources such as butter, olive oil, coconut oil and avocados, which will keep you full and satisfied; a moderate amount of protein; and a low amount of carbs, from real food sources such as vegetables.
When you begin to track your own foods, it will open your eyes to hidden carbs, which will lead you to start reading food labels. This will help you get an even closer look at what you’re really consuming. We have provided a nifty video to help you do this in the online program.
When reading food labels, it is the number of carbs less the dietary fibre, per 100gs that gives you the net carbs. You will be looking for all foods that are 5g per 100g and below, with no hidden sugars, preservatives or additives.
The total number of net carbs of the food you consume makes up your carb intake for the day.
If you would like to know the carb count for something that doesn’t have a food label, like a cauliflower for instance, you can simply enter this into our carb counter to get the information.
As per our carb counter, a medium head of cauliflower contains about 17.46g of carbs – but remember that you are not likely to eat the entire cauliflower all at once!
Now that you understand a bit more about carbs, and possibly a little more about your body, sign up for the free week of our online weight loss program, to become a lean, keen Banting machine.