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Are carbohydrates really our enemy?

Sind Kohlenhydrate wirklich unser Feind?

A detailed look at what carbohydrate foods you should eat, when and why. This article is a must read for people who want to build muscle or lose weight.

I get asked a lot of questions regarding carbohydrate consumption and one of the common questions I get asked most often is "won't carbs make me fat"? This is not the case. Carbohydrates are an energy food for the body and are stored in your muscles and liver for use by the body. These carbohydrates are used by every cell in your body, by your brain and for the movement of muscles. Whatever you do, the glucose in your blood that comes from carbohydrates will be used to provide energy for that activity.

Most carbohydrate foods come from plant-based sources. The typical carbohydrate sources that will be eaten include bread, grains, cereals, fruits, vegetables, beans, peas and other legumes.

Some animal foods such as milk and dairy products contain a significant amount of carbohydrates. There are different types of carbohydrates, such as simple and complex carbohydrates, with simple carbohydrates being digested the fastest. Food sources of simple carbohydrates include table sugar, fruit, sweets, soft drinks and things like cakes and cookies.

Most sources of complex carbohydrates contain fiber, which is necessary for healthy digestion and can keep you fuller longer because it absorbs water, which increases the amount of food you eat. This also makes the stool softer and easier to pass through the digestive tract. In addition to this, soluble fiber can help stabilize blood sugar levels by slowing the rate at which glucose enters the bloodstream. They can even help to lower cholesterol levels, which is important for reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. The feeling of satiety that fiber provides can also help people who are trying to lose weight to better control their appetite.

Some plant-based foods will contain more fiber than others. Good sources of fiber include fruits, vegetables, whole grain breads, whole grain rice, whole grain pasta, cereals, nuts, seeds and bran. Particularly good sources of soluble fiber are fruits, vegetables, beans and oatmeal. Other food sources of complex carbohydrates are classified as starch products and include things like bread, cereals, potatoes, pasta, rice, pulses, vegetables and seeds.

Do we need carbohydrates to survive?

Carbohydrates are the nutrients we need in the greatest quantities. According to published scientific articles, 45 to 65% of our total calories should be consumed in the form of carbohydrates. We need this amount of carbohydrates because carbohydrates are the body's main source of energy. Carbohydrates can easily be used by the body as an energy source. All tissues of the body can use glucose as an energy source. Carbohydrates are needed by the nervous system, kidneys, brain and muscles (including the heart) to function properly. Carbohydrates can be stored in the muscles and liver in the form of glycogen for later use.

The side effects of a low carbohydrate diet.

The low-carb diet is reported to be the best diet for fat loss. But this type of diet can also have side effects. One side effect is the depletion of muscle glycogen stores and since glycogen is stored along with water, this water also disappears from the muscles, which can lead to dehydration. Dieters consider weight loss due to the elimination of previously bound water to be fat loss, but this is not the case.

Another serious side effect that will affect your training goals is that you will tire more quickly while on a low-carb diet, which can lead to a feeling of lethargy that will rob you of your training motivation. This will then lead to less training, which in turn will lower your metabolic rate. Muscle glycogen is your muscles' normal choice of energy source and without glycogen your muscle fibers will contract less. In the absence of glycogen as an energy source, the body will initially use protein from the muscles and fat. In this initial phase, muscle breakdown will be rapid and caused by the use of readily available muscle protein for metabolism or for conversion to glucose as an energy source. If you then consume excessive amounts of protein, this situation will not be prevented as a calorie deficit will prevail.

Another important aspect of a low-carbohydrate diet is that if insulin levels are chronically low, the catabolism of protein will increase, while at the same time the all-important protein synthesis will come to a standstill. Another side effect of this type of diet is that muscles and skin will become flabby and saggy. Sagging muscles and skin do not look good and you will lose that healthy, glowing look even though you have lost some fat.

Low carbohydrate diets are also high in fat, which can be problematic. There are studies that show that increased consumption of animal products and/or saturated fats can increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, gallstones, kidney stones, arthritis symptoms, etc. Fat is certainly a necessary and desirable part of your diet, but should be consumed mainly in the form of healthy fats.

Another problem with low-carb diets is a potential lack of adequate amounts of certain nutrients, phytonutrients and antioxidants found primarily in legumes, vegetables, whole grains and fruits. These nutrients are even more important than normal in a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet.

The conversion of glucose into glycogen

After a meal, blood glucose levels rise and the pancreas is the first organ to respond by releasing the hormone insulin, which signals the various body tissues to absorb excess glucose. The muscles and liver use this excess glucose to form glycogen. The muscles store about two-thirds of the total amount of glycogen present in the entire body and use this glycogen during exercise.

The liver stores the other third and makes it available to the brain and other organs in the form of blood sugar when blood sugar levels drop. Glycogen is designed to release glucose when needed. When blood sugar levels drop and cells need energy, a pancreatic hormone known as glucagon is released into the bloodstream. Thousands of enzymes in the liver cells respond by releasing a surge of glucose into the bloodstream for use by all the cells in the body. Another hormone called epinephrine does the same as part of the body's defense mechanism in case of danger.

The conversion of excess glucose into fat

Sustained high dietary glucose intake leads to increased fat synthesis. If the glucose intake is continued even when the glycogen stores in the muscles and liver are already completely full, this glucose is not excreted. Instead, it is converted into a form of energy storage that has an unlimited capacity - i.e. triglycerides, which are stored in fatty tissue. To do this, glucose is first converted into pyruvate in a process known as glycolysis. This pyruvate is then converted into acetyl-CoA, which is the starting material for the synthesis of fatty acids. This synthesis takes place in the liver. This is followed by the conversion of fatty acids into triglycerides (also in the liver) and the transport of these triglycerides into the fatty tissue, where they are stored.

Which carbohydrates should we eat?

First of all, we should leave out the foods we shouldn't eat, which include sweets, cookies, cakes, pastries and processed foods such as bread, pasta, white rice and basically any food that contains added sugar. The primary type of carbohydrates we should be eating are high nutrient density carbohydrate sources that contain vitamins, minerals and fiber. These high nutrient density carbohydrate sources not only have a lower impact on insulin secretion, but also provide your body with essential nutrients that improve metabolic function.

Many vitamins and minerals contained in carbohydrates are also co-factors that help the body to burn fat. Others serve as antioxidants, which are partly responsible for ensuring that the body's cells can function optimally. The fiber they contain promotes satiety, which reduces our urge to overeat. The group of carbohydrate sources with high nutrient density includes products made from whole grains, vegetables and fruit.

Processed or refined carbohydrates should be avoided completely, as many nutrients are lost in the processing process, resulting in foods that provide only empty calories and contribute little to optimal cellular function. Eating these types of foods stimulates the pancreas to release large amounts of insulin, which activates fat storage enzymes while inhibiting the activity of enzymes responsible for burning fat. This increases the likelihood of building up additional body fat.

If you are thinking about incorporating grains into your diet, then you should choose the brown varieties - foods such as brown rice, whole grain pasta and whole grain/multigrain bread - while avoiding the white types of these foods. 'Brown' cereals are processed more slowly by the body, ensuring that the glucose released is released into the bloodstream more slowly, which means that insulin levels will remain more stable and therefore the potential for fat storage will be lower.

As far as vegetables are concerned, you should choose the green varieties whenever possible, as these are extremely low in calories and can therefore be consumed in large quantities. Other vegetables such as corn, peas and pumpkin have a higher calorie content, but can be eaten in moderate quantities.

When it comes to fruit, you should avoid canned fruit as it is usually sugared. You should also limit your consumption of fruit juices, as these provide less - or no - fiber than fruit in its natural form and also contain fewer vitamins and minerals. Remember that liquids pass through the stomach very quickly, which in turn should result in a significant increase in blood sugar and insulin levels.

The importance of carbohydrate intake after training

The post-workout meal is the most important meal a person training with weights can eat. As mentioned above, glycogen stores are depleted during exercise and your liver and muscles will therefore be craving nutrients after your workout. The release of the enzyme glucagon synthase is activated and this enzyme is involved in promoting glycogen storage. This enzyme release, in combination with other transporters, promotes the rapid uptake of glucose, which enables glycogen stores to be replenished more quickly.

Delaying carbohydrate consumption by two hours can reduce the rate of glycogen resynthesis by 50%, which is why carbohydrate intake during the first hour after exercise is crucial. Depending on the amount of glycogen consumed during exercise, it can take up to 20 hours to replenish glycogen stores. Consuming carbohydrates with a moderate to high glycemic index has been shown to rapidly provide glucose to the muscles immediately after exercise, while low-glycemic carbohydrates have not been shown to provide the same rapid supply of glucose.

Carbohydrate intake immediately after exercise is therefore more than recommended, but studies have also shown that consuming some protein after exercise is also beneficial. Both the carbohydrates and the protein in a post-workout protein & carbohydrate mix will stimulate insulin secretion, which supports glycogen resynthesis, and the additional protein provides amino acids to the exercised muscles.

The recommended amount of carbohydrates after training is at least one gram of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight. The consumption of whey protein after training works best due to the rapid absorption of this protein source, as the amino acids it contains reach the muscles more quickly. This is beneficial at a time when muscles are preparing for growth as it means that virtually all of the protein intake is used for muscle repair and growth with little loss.

Adequate hydration is also very important as glycogen is stored in the muscles along with water. So don't neglect your fluid intake after training.

How many carbohydrates do you need?

Glucose is oxidized by the body more efficiently than fatty acids and can be used under aerobic and anaerobic conditions. As a result, at least 50% of total daily energy should be consumed in the form of carbohydrates. Increased muscle activity requires an adequate supply of energy for ATP synthesis by the muscles.

When muscle activity increases, the adrenal cortex releases adrenaline. Adrenaline increases the breakdown of glucose (by activating the enzymes responsible for this breakdown and deactivating the synthesis enzymes). When muscle activity decreases, the release of adrenaline is stopped. When glucose becomes available again after a meal, the body begins to replenish muscle glycogen stores. Glucose can only be made available to the muscle cells by using stored muscle glycogen or from the liver via the bloodstream.

In contrast to digestible carbohydrates, dietary fiber and indigestible carbohydrates provide only a minimal amount of energy through fermentation by intestinal bacteria. Metabolization or fermentation of dietary fibre provides short-chain fatty acids that are absorbed via the intestine. The short-chain fatty acid butyrate is utilized within the colonocytes, while propionate and acetate are absorbed and transported to the muscles and liver.

Fermentable fiber provides approximately 2 kcal per gram. Indigestible components of dietary fiber are beneficial to the digestive tract because they promote the transport of nutrients and waste products in the intestines, reducing intramural pressure and promoting regular bowel movements.

Whole grain products provide complex carbohydrates and tend to provide more nutrients and fiber than products made from processed grains. Eating adequate amounts of whole grain products can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

The recommended amount of carbohydrates for a recreational athlete is at least 60% of total energy intake (assuming that total energy intake is adequate). For endurance and strength athletes, 6 to 10 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight are recommended.

If you want to lose fat, a useful guideline is to reduce your calorie intake by at least 500, but not more than 1000 kcal compared to your maintenance calorie intake. For people who only want to lose a small amount of weight, a deficit of 1000 kcal will be too large.

As a guideline for minimum calorie intake, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends that calorie intake should not fall below 1200 kcal per day for women and 1800 kcal for men, but even these calorie amounts can be quite low.

Always remember the following: The absolute minimum amount of carbohydrates needed for healthy brain function is 150 grams.


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