Why You Need Carbohydrates

I went to visit with a friend of mine last night who I haven’t seen in a couple of months. As soon as I walked in the door she gasped and told me how good I looked. I was surprised by her reaction and it felt really good to know that maybe my weight loss is showing. I have, after all, lost over 22 pounds since I saw her last.

As we visited she drilled me about the diet I’m on and what I’m doing to lose weight. As I tell everyone who asks, losing weight is not rocket science, it just takes determination and dedication to eat healthier and get more exercise. The diet program I follow is self-structured. I try to keep my diet as balanced as possible, with lots of vegetables and fruits and a moderate amount of lean meats. The one food group I really try to limit is the amount of carbohydrates I eat. I am by no means following an Atkins diet, but I do limit my carbs. Foods such as pastas, potatoes and white sugar I have completely eliminated from my diet.

Although limiting carbohydrates in your diet is a good idea if you are trying to lose weight, eliminating them completely can harm your health.

Although limiting carbohydrates in your diet is a good idea if you are trying to lose weight, extreme low-carb diets can harm your health.

I am a firm believer that if you are going to find a diet that you can stick with for years to come, it is going to have to be nutritionally balanced and not too restrictive. Some programs out there are extreme low-carb, and for me that would be an impossible diet to follow. Not only that, but I have found that eating a limited amount of carbohydrates in the form of whole grains, fruits and vegetables gives me more energy, especially for exercise.

I think that many people who are dieting are concerned about eating carbohydrates. Although it is important to limit your consumption of these foods, eating some carbohydrates can actually help you burn more energy while you exercise (see Carbohydrates Help Burn Fats). So to clear up some confusion, lets explore why you need carbohydrates in your diet.

Carbohydrates, or “carbs” are types of starches and sugars, which are responsible for production of energy in the human body. Sugars are known as simple carbohydrates because they are easily digested and used for energy. Examples of these include cookies, candy and other sugar-based foods. Most fruits are also a good source of simple carbohydrates. Starches are referred to as complex carbohydrates because they take longer to be broken down and absorbed during digestion. They include whole grains, rice, pasta, potatoes and bread. To produce energy for immediate use, the body takes in these carbohydrates and through a chemical process, turns them into glucose. This glucose is transported in the blood vessels to cells in the body where it is used for energy. This energy is then able to power all activities of the body.

Since not all the energy in form of glucose can be used at once, the cells are able to save it for later use. The liver and muscles store the glucose in form of a substance known as glycogen. When the liver and muscles cannot accommodate all the excess glycogen, then it is distributed around the body and stored as fat. Glycogen and body fat can be utilized later as a source of quick energy when required.

Scientific studies show that a human adult’s diet should consist of up to 40% carbohydrates though this figure has not been officially established. What is evident though, is that the body requires a given amount of carbohydrates to function at optimal level. The absence of carbohydrates in one’s diet may result in certain symptoms such as tiredness, poor mental functions and muscle cramping. Some of these signs are apparent during prolonged periods without food as well as after an intense physical workout.

Several reports have publicized the ‘low carb’ diet as the healthiest but when overdone, this kind of diet may be unhealthy and dangerous to the user’s well being. Low carbohydrates should not mean no carbohydrates, so whichever diet one decides on, it is necessary to eat the required amount of carbohydrates to keep the body adequately energized. Certain carbohydrates greatly improve the process of digestion by producing healthy nutrients required in the gut and aid the movement and breaking down of food. Carbohydrates further improve calcium levels in the body by promoting calcium absorption during digestion.

An innovative method of building reserves of energy using carbohydrates is currently popular with sports personalities and those involved in endurance training. The technique known as carbo-loading involves total depletion of glycogen reserves in the body immediately followed by consumption of a large portion of carbohydrates. According to this concept, the body is expected to build up an increased capacity to store energy. This stored energy can then be utilized fully during sporting activity. This method is reported to greatly increase performance and endurance of athletes. However, carbo-loading should only be carried out under the guidance of a qualified nutritionist. Carbohydrates are essential and are a required source of fuel for the body.

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