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WHAT TYPES OF CARBS DO YOU CONSUME? The next factor to consider is composition of meals and dietary carbohydrate consumption. Obviously simple sugars/empty kcal that consist of concentrated sweets and that come from low nutrient (junk) foods should be limited or eaten infrequently. By reducing concentrated and simple sugars in diet, this change could contribute to a reduction in risk of obesity, Type II diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and tooth decay. But it is not so simple as to suggest that simple sugars create greatest insulin spike since effect of food on blood glucose depends on several factors that constitute a meal’s total glycemic index.
First, ratio and types of foods must be considered. Fat helps to slow digestion and absorption processes, thereby resulting in a lower and a less steep insulin spike. Hence, a food with a high glycemic index (e.g., potato) can have little effect on rising blood sugar levels if it is eaten with a high fat food (e.g., steak). Fiber tends to have an effect in keeping blood glucose levels down, and eating sucrose with whole wheat bread will not cause problems even for a diabetic. In fact, diabetics can consume up to 50% carb intake, so long as most are low on glycemic index to keep blood glucose response to a minimum.
Refined starches (white flour and rice, cornstarch, pasta, enriched breads, and breakfast cereals) digest and absorb a little slower than simple sugars, but these foods still should be limited within diet. Complex starchy carbohydrates, such as sweet potatoes, winter squash, yams, unrefined grains and grain products (e.g., barley, brown rice, buckwheat, oatmeal, and whole wheat products) are preferred source of energy since they are high in fiber and digest slowest. Slow digestion means slow glucose conversion, energy which burns/oxidizes during body functions at about same rate at which it is produced.
Further, process of digesting carbohydrates as a whole burns more kcal than digestion of an equivalent amount of fat. However, even refined and whole grain starches break down to produce glucose, with excess storing as fat tissue. Nonetheless, it is over-consumption of whole grains that results in added fat, a situation which is no different than over-consumption of healthy essential fatty acids or proteins. Hence, it is not carbohydrates that cause problems of excess fat gain, but choice and amount of carbohydrate.
The form of food also alters glycemic response because of time it takes for food to be digested and absorbed:
Liquid – quickly digested and absorbed.
Dry – opposite to liquid state, resulting in a slower rate of digestion and absorption.
Finely Ground – digests and absorbs better than dry because of a larger surface area, and this causes food to break down better and faster.
Raw – more difficult to digest than cooked foods; usually harder and tougher and requires more time to be broken down, digested, and absorbed.
Cooked – breaks down, digests, and absorbs faster than its raw counterpart.
OTHER REASONS FOR HIGH (SUFFICIENT) CARB INTAKE
A most important complimentary aspect of carbohydrate is its protein-sparing effect. When body is low in energy or when it is deprived of sufficient kcal, it will use its glucose stores. Once depleted, body uses protein to manufacture glucose. Consuming sufficient carbohydrates guarantees that minimal protein in muscles will be catabolized for energy requirements. Conversely, low carb diets accelerate protein catabolism to produce energy by more than 100% than with a moderate to high carbohydrate diet (50-60%).
High-fat advocates further suggest that if carbohydrates in diet are limited, body will use fat for energy. Although fat can supply most of body’s tissues with energy, if need be, it cannot supply energy for brain, which requires glucose. Even during fasting, fat is used last as an energy source. Neither can fat optimally supply body with energy required for intense weight training, main fuel source required from carbohydrates. Even with aerobic exercise, muscles cannot function effectively on fat alone, but will utilize glucose simultaneously. Moreover, as body hurriedly breaks down fat for energy on a low carb diet, process is often incomplete and produces by-products that body must eliminate.
Brian D. Johnston is the Director of Education and President of the I.A.R.T. fitness certification and education institute. He has written over 12 books and is a contributor author to the Merck Medical Manual. An international lecturer, Mr. Johnston wears many hats in the fitness and health industries, and can be reached at info@ExerciseCertification.com. Visit his site at www.ExerciseCertification.com for more free articles and offers.