carbohydrates. why the bad wrap?

Bread is the enemy and should be avoided at all cost … Just kidding! 

As someone who personally consumes around 4 pieces of toast a day, I am happy to report bread, or more generally carbs, are not the enemy. So why the bad wrap?

Let’s have a look at how important this fuel source really is… 

Carbohydrates are broken down to glucose which is the sole source of energy for red blood cells – meaning they literally cannot produce energy at all without glucose from carbs. Glucose also provides a significant proportion of what is needed for the brain which requires around 120g of glucose a day just to function. 

In case you missed that, your brain (the thing that controls thought, memory, emotion, touch, motor skills, vision, breathing, temperature, hunger and every process that regulates our body) needs around 120g of glucose a day just to function!!!

So what does 120g of carbohydrates look like?

Below are some common examples of carbohydrates that may be included in your daily meals:

  • 40g of carbs in 2 slices of Helga’s Mixed Grain Loaf
  • 20.4g of carbs in 2 Weetbix Biscuits
  • 41g of carbs in 1 cup of Sun Rise Brown Rice
  • 90g of carbs in 1 serve (125g) of San Remo Penne Pasta

This means your brain needs the equivalent of 4 slices of bread + 4 weetbix just to function optimally! To consume anything less than this would mean our brain will begin to struggle to operate fully, when we then add all the other bodily functions on top of this – all of which require energy, THEN add exercise into the mix, avoiding carbs like the plague is probably the single most detrimental thing we can do to ourselves. Now of course they may be justifiable reasons for a low carb diet; ethical or religious reasons, certain food allergies etc but weight loss is not one of them… but we won’t get into that here. 

Once we’ve made sure our brain has enough energy to function, excess glucose in the blood is then converted to glycogen and is stored in the muscle and liver ready for when it’s needed. When exercising, carbohydrates are your primary fuel source (now there’s a bit of science behind how this process happens but we won’t get into the nitty gritty today). For now it’s important that you know the Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend 45-65% of energy needs to come from carbohydrates. That’s about half of what you eat or more guys…

It’s also good to note that high intensity exercise almost exclusively requires carbohydrates as a fuel source, once this has been depleted you are unable to continue to work at the same intensity. So if you want to be able to perform at a high intensity during your TFS classes, or any exercise for that matter, it is important you are fuelled up and ready to go. If you’re going to the effort to go to get out of bed early in the morning to get to the gym or perhaps dragging yourself to the gym after a long day- the least you can do is give your body the energy it needs to do what you’re asking. To avoid carbohydrates and therefore glucose would be like trying to drive your car around without any petrol in the tank.


pre & post exercise snack ideas

Pre-exercise snack ideas include:

  • Toast with honey/jam/marmalade/vegemite 
  • Pasta topped with low fat tomato-based sauce 

Post-exercise snacks:

  • Chocolate milk
  • Yogurt with berries

Carbohydrates are rated according to how quickly they raise the glucose level of the blood and are given a glycaemic index (GI) which is ranked from 0 to 100. Carbohydrates that break down quickly during digestion have a higher GI than those that break down slowly and release glucose gradually into the bloodstream. These low GI foods often prolong digestion due to their slow breakdown and may help with feeling full.

  • low GI (less than 55) – examples include soy products, beans, fruit, milk, pasta, grainy bread, porridge (oats) and lentils
  • medium GI (55 to 70) – examples include orange juice, honey, basmati rice and wholemeal bread
  • high GI (greater than 70) – examples include potatoes, white bread and short-grain rice.

A well-balanced diet will have a variety of these foods, so no more of this “good carb” and “bad carb” bullsh*t… meaning you can have your cake and eat it too!

But remember there is never one size fits all and there may be some cases where a lower carb diet is recommended by a qualified health professional. There is currently research weighing the benefits against the risks of these diets and how suited they are for people with a number of varying chronic diseases. 

Overall, it is important to take away that consuming carbohydrates is fricken important for a healthy and balanced diet – even more so if you are someone who exercises. If you’d like further information or guidance on your individual carbohydrate consumption, I recommend reaching out to a dietician.

By Emily Hage
TFS Trainer

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