Most have heard over and over how carbohydrates are generally bad due to the effects they have on the body due to sugar spikes and fat storage. But how many of us have taken the time to understand “why”? Hopefully the information herein will shed some light on those pesky carbohydrates and help us make informed decisions as to if, and how, to integrate them into a healthy low carb diet .
When we eat a meal rich in carbohydrates, the carbs are broken down and converted into glucose, causing blood sugar levels rise. Take the time to understand this important fact, carbohydrates are broken down to their base molecules = Sugar. Different carbs are merely different forms of simple sugars linked in Polymers. In the end, when eating carbs it is the equivalent to consuming sugar. Got it? Good.
What does your body do in response to this rise in blood sugar? It releases the hormone Insulin.
Insulin moves glucose from the blood to the muscles and fat cells thereby lowering glucose in the bloodstream. So while the blood glucose levels are lowered thanks to insulin, insulin has to shuttle this glucose somewhere, somehow, to be stored . . . and it does so most conveniently as fat.
At the muscular level the glucose brought by insulin is converted to glycogen and stored in the muscles for energy to be used by those muscles in the near future, then stored in the liver. Finally when both the muscles and liver are full there is only one option for the excess carbs – that is to be converted to fat and stored as fatty tissue. What this means in summary is that when you consume more carbohydrates than are required to replenish glycogen levels in the muscles and liver, the remainder is stored as fat.
As you can imagine when the hormone insulin is sending signals for your body to store fat, your body is also being told not to release any fat either. So two very negative instructions are being communicated here – first to “store fat”, and secondly, ”do not to release any stored fat” for energy either. This is not a good thing if one wants to lose weight.
What is worse is that high levels of insulin, which are a response to high blood sugar, which was the result of too high a carbohydrate intake, further suppresses the good hormone Growth Hormone. Our bodies use growth hormone to build new muscle mass and generate muscular development, so this means high levels of insulin also inhibit our ability to maximize muscle gains.
Remember too, that carbohydrates take many forms – breads, grains, pasta, cookies and candies and other sweets are the most accepted carbs in our diet. But do not forget that fruits and vegetables are also carbohydrates and the impact is slightly similar regardless of how they are consumed. The benefit of consuming vegetables and fruit is that they generally have much higher nutritional values, and their fiber content makes them slower digesting, thereby reducing their impact on insulin. That is why some carbohydrates are more complex than others, which means their impact on blood sugar is lowers and their rate of absorption is slower.
One more important point – when insulin is released in response to high blood sugar levels, it stays elevated for short period of time even after blood glucose is lowered. So high blood sugar caused insulin to be released, but as blood sugar levels decrease some insulin still remains. Until insulin levels drop, the insulin needs something to do – and seeing as though its function is to move glucose from the blood, and there is little glucose left in the blood – it tells your body to get some sugar so that it has something to do. This creates the sugar cravings that many people experience shortly after consuming a high carbohydrate meal!
Consuming fat in your diet is not what makes people fat. However, the manner in which your body responds to carbohydrate meals, as detailed above, is what makes us fat. A low carb diet is recommended due to its impact on weight loss, as when insulin is present, all fat burning is impeded. There are plenty of low carb foods to fill a healthy balanced diet and lower glycemic foods should be given preference.
I have tried (unsuccessfully) to keep this article short and simple due to the importance of understanding the basic chain reaction caused by carbohydrates in the diet. It may be worth reading twice. Next up I will touch on how to use the hormone insulin in your favor for muscle recovery and growth.