A carbohydrate is a macronutrient that is made up of a single sugar (or multiple sugars), carbon, hydrogen, & oxygen.
Carbohydrates provide energy @ 4 cal per gram & are a QUICK ENERGY source making them a useful tool for physical activity (workouts, runs, sports, etc).
They’re also the preferred source of fuel for your noggin and nerves!
Carbohydrates can be broken down into two categories: Complex & simple. The difference between the two being how many sugars are in each glucose chain.
Complex- long chains of sugars (glucose). This group includes starches and fibers such as bread (choose whole grain), pasta, crackers, legumes, peas, corn, potatoes, squash, etc.
Simple- single sugars & pairs of sugars. This group includes white sugar, fruits, dairy, cookies, candy, jelly, syrup, etc.
Both categories of carbohydrates can be “healthy” and “unhealthy,” but the key to making smart carb choices is knowing what food will make you feel good and help you optimize your energy.
Because carbohydrates can cause spikes (and subsequent crashes) in blood sugar. This can cause fatigue, lack of focus, and make you crave a nap. To avoid this feeling (or worse feelings if you have a carbohydrate metabolism disorder), choose your carbs while considering portion control! I know this is hard (or maybe it’s just me) but try only ordering one pancake instead of a full-stack or maybe pair that cookie with some beef jerky.
In addition to blood sugar, fiber is also a fundamental nutritional component of carbohydrates. Technically speaking, fiber is the indigestible roughage/bulk of a plant-based carbohydrate. That may sound gross, but it plays an important role in digestion, blood sugar regulation, and weight management.
There are actually many people out there who correlate “healthy” and weightloss with low carb (or no carb) diets/meal plans. But I promise, your nutrition DOESN’T have to be that way UNLESS you want it to.
In fact, the Daily Recommended Intake (DRI) for carbohydrates is 46-65% of your daily intake (with only 10% of your TOTAL CALORIES coming from sources with added sugar).
Like I mentioned earlier, your brain and nervous system need carbohydrates to perform. Additionally, carbs provide 1/2 of the fuel utilized by your muscles! To optimize the use of carbs before you work out, you might try 1-4grams per kg (2.2lbs) 30 minutes before exercise. Oh, and remember when I said carbs are a quick energy source?! Try having a few during your workout and see if you can see a difference!
So girl (or guy), eat those carbs. If you’re concerned they’re going to make make you fat or unhealthy, my recommendation would be to make good, well-balanced choices. This will help you reach your goals and feel energetic in the process.