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What Are Carbohydrates and The Atkins Diet?

What Are Carbohydrates and The Atkins Diet?

There are many diets, misconceptions and myths circulating about carbohydrates. Deemed as being good for athletes but bad for weight gain, carbs have gone from being the good guys of the food pyramid to the dieting enemy.

Here we bust the myths about carbs being fattening and solve the carb loading conundrum.

What are carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates are found in food and are an ideal form of energy for the body. Carbs can be easily converted into glucose that the body can readily use as energy to keep the body functioning. This energy can be categorised into two groups: simple and complex carbohydrates. Simple carbs consist of basic sugars and complex carbs are dietary fiber and starchy foods.

Are carbs fattening?

Not exactly, carbohydrates are a form of energy that the body converts into glucose, but the body only needs a certain amount for its daily functioning. As with any form of energy, if the body consumes more than it uses, the rest will be stored as fat and will cause weight gain. Complex carbohydrates or foods that have a low GI (glycaemic index) score, have energy which is slowly released into the system. This allows glucose to be created slowly and therefore delays the storing of fat.

By incorporating complex carbs and minimal simple carbs into a balanced diet, carbs will not cause you to gain weight, but rather will give your body the energy it needs for training and daily activity.

How do you carb load?

Carb loading is a diet system of stocking up on complex carbohydrates that the body can store as excess glycogen in the muscles. The technique which started in the 1960s and involves a 3-4 day low carb diet filled with hard training and then followed by a 3-4 day loading phase involving low activity and a high carb diet. This system allows muscles to increase glycogen storing beyond the normal amount that muscles can hold, and has been shown to improve performance through increased endurance.

Atkins diet (Low carb)

The Atkins Diet is a low carb diet started by Robert Atkins as a method of weight loss. This diet involves limiting the consumption of carbohydrates, so that the body uses excess fat stored in the body for energy. Another way the diet works to help with weight loss is by supressing hunger, as proteins and fats take longer to digest than carbohydrates. This diet has become famous through celebrities taking it on board to lose excess pounds, but has also been criticised for putting people at risk of heart disease.

Complex carbohydrates

Foods that are complex carbohydrates are starchy and high in dietary fibre. These foods have a low GI (glycaemic index) score, meaning that they contain energy which is slow to release, keeping the body going for longer. Examples include bananas, wholegrain cereals, breads and pastas, brown rice, barley, beans, chickpeas, lentils, nuts, oats, potatoes and root vegetables.

Simple carbohydrates, which have a high GI score give the body energy quickly and are known as basic sugars. These carbs can be found in cakes, biscuits, chocolates, honey, jams, pizzas, soft drinks and sweet snack bars.

The main difference between the two types of carbs is the rate at which energy is released, converted into glucose and released into your bloodstream. Simple sugars are released quickly into the blood, and are often stored in the body as the glucose is not used as fast as it is created. It is recommended to enjoy a balanced diet with good sources of complex carbohydrates and limited simple carbohydrates.

Myth busted – Don’t eat carbs after 6pm

This is a top food myth. There is little proof to support that carbs are fattening at all, so eating them after a certain time will not have a great effect on weight loss or gain. It is important to allow sufficient time between eating your evening meal and going to bed to assist with good digestion, but this is relevant to all food groups. It is however a good idea to cut back on simple carbohydrates such as sweets, biscuits and cakes if you are training for an event or trying to lose weight.

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