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Do We Need Carbs For Energy?

The answer to this is irrefutably YES!

The end!

Well actually it’s not quite that simple and if optimum health and fat loss is your goal, then read on. This post was inspired by an article I read in the Metro yesterday, but I felt it needed some perspective on how we at Ultimate City Fitness view the subject.

There are various camps sitting on different sides of the fence on the intake of carbohydrates.

One side will say eat none and focus on higher intakes of proteins and fats. Another to make it your primary macronutrient (with protein and fat being the other two) and eat lots of it as shown in most supposed dietary food pyramids over the years. Others to focus on eating the right types in the right amounts. And a whole host of other combinations.

Carbs can be broken down into three types; Simple carbohydrates (sugars), complex carbohydrates (starches), non-starch polysaccharides (fibre).

Q :: Out of the three there, can you spot the one that we should keep to a minimum?

Q :: Out of the three there can you spot the one that can be linked (with some other factors) to many degenerative diseases, including obesity, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and so on and so on?

Q :: Out of the three there can you spot the one that the Western diet on a national scale has got to love and will find it in whatever form it can to get a ‘sweet’ fix? (think many cereals, so called health food bars, juices, smoothies, low-fat foods, and other well marketed and profitable processed foods).

Q :: Out of the three can you spot the spanner in the works of looking great and feeling great and the one that gives it’s two siblings a hard ride as they are all classed as carbs, but this one is definitely usually the dark sheep of the family?

Yes its fibre….. just kidding, its sugars, it it’s many forms and guises.

Life is about balance right? A little sugar won’t kill us, it’s just the culmination of a little sugar in many places through the day, just might.

I saw a fruit smoothie drink yesterday that contained 2.5 apples, 2/3’rds of a banana, about an orange, 1.5 mangos….. that’s about 6 servings of fruit and equated to 11 spoons of sugar in a 450ml bottle. This is marketed as healthy!!

On a side note fruit is great, just eat only a couple of pieces a day and make sure it is low glycemic (has low impact on blood sugars). Don’t drink lots of juice (all the sweetness of fruit but without the fibre and properties of chewing it to start the digestive process) and expect to lose fat!

On another side note (yes I go off on lots of tangents, a spoon of sugar equates to roughly 5g, so when you see a label that states a drink contains 12g of carbohydrate per 100 ml which sugars and the drink is 450ml, then multiply 12g by 4.5 ((450ml divided by 100ml)) and you get 54g of sugar. Divide that by the spoon size of 5g and you get practically 11 spoonfuls!

I love it when people have no sugar in their tea all day and then have about 3 glasses of healthy juice…….. Advice go back to one sugar in tea and have water and no juice 😉

Now apply that spoon conversion rate to whatever drink or low-fat yoghurt or cereal you buy! Another tangent – I told you I go off on tangents – is that cereal usually shows a serving size as 60g. If you EVER eat just 60g then I’d be amazingly surprised. Calculate more on 200g and you’ll be close and then add the sugar from the lactose in the milk!)

So now maybe you have got the hint that is best to avoid and cut out most sugars. Yes once in a while as a treat is ok, but only once in a while if you enjoy feeling on top of your game and getting leaner.

But just a final subtle reminder;


So the ones to focus on? As a rule it’s carbohydrates as they came out of the ground or off a tree. Eat raw if you can, and if not cook, but don’t over cook as then you lose many of the great micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, etc) that are contained within them, as well as other small changes that occur which are best avoided.

The Metro article I sited at the start is looking in the right direction here and recommends some good choices. However in our opinion grains are best avoided. Yes this gets us in trouble with the grain lovers and bread fanatics, but we’ll stand our ground here. We work with many, many clients that have cut them out and feel much better as a result. There is too much grey area over what constitutes healthy brown bread over the dreaded white bread 😉 Marketing has come such a way now that they’ll say anything to get you to buy that loaf, so use your loaf and cut it out for a few weeks and see how you feel. Simple really, cut it out, keep a food diary, note your mood on waking up and through the day and then see what it says.

The grey area continues with cereals. I LOVE CEREALS! However I have felt and looked so much better since I stop waking up to them. Am I alone? NO. The marketing of cereals is awesome, as it makes us believe what we actually really want to believe which is that they are healthy, low-fat, whole grain, with added fortified vitamins, and fibre and whatever else. Bottom line is to swap them for another breakfast and see how you feel through the day. We grew up with these bowls of yummyness (many of them are like eating sweets now) and the fact that you have to pour a load of dairyness over them does not help matters, especially when it is skimmed milk (which takes the fat out of the milk which changes the glycemic impact of the altered milk to high glycemic (normal milk is low GI). Thus making skim milk a sugar shot!). Yes Weetafix and Dreaded Wheat are not so bad, but cut them out and see how you feel.

My favourite carbs are green leafy vegetables, sweet potatoes, butternut squash (tastes good on a cottage pie instead of the higher glycemic potatoes), lentils, wild rice and peas. I personally like oats as well, but when I am looking to get it good shape for a photo shoot or suchlike I will cut them out. There is a visible and recorded change in body fat when I do this.

Those favourites are all starchy carbs and mostly contain a nice amount of fibre (great for slowing down the absorption of the food and helping with transit through the digestive system).

Keep portions to a sensible size (apart from the green leafy veg, eat as much of that as you want!)when it comes to the sweet potato, rice, butternut squash, oats and lentils. If you sit at a desk all day and only exercise three times a week then chances are you don’t need lots and lots of energy as athletes do. If you take in excess calories from even good carbohydrate sources, then you will store them in your fuel tank for later.

In women this fuel tank tends to sit on their hips and butt and on guys it’s out front in the stomach, covering over the six-pack (that we all have). Fat is out natural store/fuel tank, but we don’t need it and unless you like it then eat sensibly and keep portions to about a fist sized portion.

Make sure it is combined with a QUALITY protein source and some QUALITY good fats which are both essential to life and keep the metabolism fired up, providing us with what we need to be healthy, energetic, in the best of moods and looking great as WE ARE SUPPOSED TO!

It’s quality that is key and that’s where followers of the Atkins diet fall foul as they can see it all as an excuse to load up on the bad fats. It is essential to get the right amount of greens to offset the protein you eat as the alkaline properties of the veg offset the acidic nature of the protein (this is why people start to smell on the high protein diets as they go into a state called ketosis which raises the ph of the blood and is not healthy).

Alkaline foods are important and we recommend using Greens to help with this balance (yes in the ideal world you would eat loads of green veg, but we don’t live on farms and it’s not practical so use a supplement as it is meant to be used and supplement an already healthy diet with some additional goodness!)

I wanted to point out a special mention for potatoes. Yes those lovely things that taste so good chopped up into fries, or baked in their jackets, or roasted, or boiled or turned into crisps. They are lovely are they not! They are also a starch or complex carbohydrate, but not all starches are created equally.

A starch is basically lots of molecules of glucose stacked together in a complex form. Some starches break down over a longer period of time into glucose and are then absorbed into the blood stream or metabolised as needed by us (these are the ones i mentioned above and they are the ones to aim to eat).

The ones like potatoes, pasta, brown bread, etc get broken down very fast due to them being of a high GI and so if the glucose comes at too much of a rush for the body to handle then the body will store the excess in those handy fuel tanks again. It will also need to release insulin to pull blood sugars down and this over time causes insulin resistance that leads to many conditions, the main one being diabetes.

If the potatoes are processed then this compounds this bad situation and adds other nasties into the mix like hydrogenated oils, trans fats, additives, etc.

Potatoes are a treat, not a health food. Pasta and bread are processed foods. AVOID.

Just a last little note of interest. Without protein and good fats in the diet we will die as they are essential. Without carbs in the diet we will be ok, as long as the quality of the protein and the fats are of the best quality! Food for thought?…. I think so!

For much more info like this then I’d recommend having a look at the 14 Day FAT FURNACE programme. Yes we market it as a fat loss plan, but it is a wolf in sheep’s clothing… or possibly a sheep in wolves clothing as it has an underpinning message of getting healthy, energetic, sleeping well, feeling great and burning off those fuel tanks that you really don’t need now do you!

It’s on a special limited time offer at the moment of 75% off the recommended price and it’s the new version 10 so if you like what I have written here, then I feel sure you’ll love that!


Train Hard, Live Easy

Tom @ UCF

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