Carbohydrates Help Preserve Muscle
Glycogen storage is just one of several ways your body makes sure it has enough glucose for all of its functions.
When glucose from carbohydrates is lacking, muscle can also be broken down into amino acids and converted into glucose or other compounds to generate energy.
Obviously, this isnt an ideal scenario, since muscle cells are crucial for body movement. Severe losses of muscle mass have been associated with poor health and a higher risk of death .
However, this is one way the body provides adequate energy for the brain, which requires some glucose for energy even during periods of prolonged starvation.
Consuming at least some carbohydrates is one way to prevent this starvation-related loss of muscle mass. These carbs will reduce muscle breakdown and provide glucose as energy for the brain .
Other ways the body can preserve muscle mass without carbohydrates will be discussed later in this article.
Summary During periods of starvation when carbohydrates arent available, the body can convert amino acids from muscle into glucose to provide the brain with energy. Consuming at least some carbs can prevent muscle breakdown in this scenario.
What Happens To Your Body When You Eat A Lot Of Carbs
Eating carbohydrates raises blood sugar levels and causes the body to produce insulin. This diverts your glucose to your cells. âBut it’s the type and amount of carbs you eat, not the carbs themselves, that makes you gain weight,â says Julia Zumpano, RD, LD. âMany carbohydrates contain extra calories and sugars.
How Sugar Converts To Fat
What happens to all that sugar when you drink a 64-ounce soda? Liver specialist Dr. Juan Gallegos tracks the consumption, absorption, and storage of sugar in our bodies. He talks about how our modern eating habits have become accustomed to the relative ease of food availability as our evolutionary metabolism struggles to cope.
Announcer: Medical news and research from University of Utah physicians and specialists you can use for a happier and healthier life. You’re listening to The Scope.
Interviewer: Dr. Juan Gallegos, he’s a liver expert at the University of Utah Hospital. I’m hoping you can help clarify something that I’ve heard, I don’t know if this is true of not, but I’ve heard that if you eat an excess of sugar that your liver can’t process it properly and it just turns it immediately into fat. So if I’m eating a tub of ice cream every night, I’m going to get a lot fatter because of that, is that true?
Interviewer: So what exactly is happening? I eat a whole bunch of sugar, it goes into my body, goes into my stomach, gets ingested by my system and then what?
Dr. Juan Gallegos: The way it’s stored is basically in the fat cells or adipocytes, but also sometimes it’s stored in other places where it shouldn’t be.
Interviewer: What about the part of the thing that I heard, that the liver can’t process it all, what does that mean exactly?
Interviewer: Or specific elements like even sugar.
Dr. Juan Gallegos: Correct.
Dr. Juan Gallegos: That is true.
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Foods That Turn Into Sugar
Now that you know which groups of foods get converted to or broken down into sugar, you’re probably looking for a list of foods that contain a lot of those carbohydrates. Keep in mind that, while all carbohydrates get broken down into sugar, the effect that a particular carbohydrate-rich food has on your blood sugar depends on the whole package.
For example, some carbohydrates, like white sugar, are processed and completely stripped of fiber. These types of carbohydrates, which are classified as simple carbohydrates, get converted to sugar more quickly and raise your blood sugar to a greater degree.
Other carbohydrates might contain sugar and starch, but also a lot of fiber. Carbohydrates that fall into this category, which is called complex carbohydrates, do get broken down into sugar, but the process is slower, so it doesn’t affect your blood sugar levels as much.
The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health provides a list of high-carbohydrate foods that are converted to sugar to some degree:
- Other starchy vegetables
Many Of Us Rely On Carbohydrates As Our Main Source Of Energy Carbohydrate
All the carbohydrates you eat and drink are broken down into glucose. The type, and amount, you consume can make a difference to your blood glucose levels and diabetes management.
There are different ways to describe carbohydrates. One way of doing this is to group them into those that contain mostly starch , and those that contain mostly sugars, such as fruits , some dairy foods , sweets, chocolate, sugary drinks and desserts.
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What Is Glycemic Load
The glycemic load of a food is different than its GI and understanding both is important. While knowing the GI of a food will tell you the rate at which it will raise your blood sugar based on a portion containing 50 g of carbohydrate, it doesnt tell you how high your blood sugar could go based on the actual portion size you are eating.
Low GL: 10 and lower
Medium GL: 11-19
High GL: 20 and higher
For example, watermelon and donuts have the same GI, but when taking into consideration a serving size, 1 cup of watermelon, which contains fewer carbs than a donut, watermelon has a lower GL than a donut. Carrots are another example of a high GI and low GL food.
How To Calculate Net Carbs
Whether to count net or total carbs is a controversial topic within the low-carb community.
For starters, the term net carbs isnt officially recognized or agreed upon by nutrition experts. In addition, due to conflicting and outdated information, figuring out how to calculate net carbs can be confusing.
In fact, the net carb claims on packaged foods may not reflect the number of carbs your body actually absorbs.
Luckily, knowing how your body processes different types of carbs may help you achieve your target blood sugar, weight loss and health goals.
This article looks at the science behind net carbs, provides simple calculations for determining your intake and discusses the pros and cons of counting net carbs.
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Understanding The Difference Between Starches Fiber And Sugars
Like fiber, starches are complex carbs, but our bodies can break these complex carbs down and turn them into glucose.
Fiber is a complex carb that our guts are unable to break down as easily as sugar. Fiber is made of long chains of carb molecules that come from plants. It holds things in the gut, such as cholesterol, simple carbs and water. Holding cholesterol in the gut makes fiber heart healthy, helping to fight atherosclerosis, which leads to plaque build-up in the arteries.
Keeping simple carbs from being digested also helps dull a spike in blood sugar. This is why consuming fruit juices isnt as healthy as real fruit. Juicing removes the pulp, which contains all of the fiber, and this leads to blood glucose spikes. Keeping water in the gut also allows for the smooth passage of stool and can help prevent colon cancer and diverticulosis, a condition that occurs when pouches form in the colon or large intestine. The recommended amount of fiber varies according to age and sex, but the average 2,000 daily calorie diet should include at least 28 grams of fiber per day.
Similar to fiber, sugar alcohols are a form of carbohydrates that are not readily digested. They are small molecules that have an alcohol added to them . Sugar alcohols often are used in sugar-free foods. They do contain calories, but much less than sugar and with less of an effect on insulin levels.
What Are Three Types Of Carbohydrates Turn To Sugar
Articles on the subject. The three types of carbohydrates are sugar, starch and fiber. During the digestion process, sugars and starches are converted into sugars, which the body uses for energy. Humans have no enzymes to digest fiber, so it passes through the digestive tract without turning into sugar.
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But A Low Carb Diet Works For Me
Studies show low carb diets can be an effective strategy for weight loss.
Especially if you previously struggled following a low fat diet.
But its not because carbs alone made you gain fat. Nor is it because cutting carbs alone made you lose fat.
A reduction in carbs automatically means an increase in protein and/or fat. Its this entire nutrient ratio shift coupled with an increase in whole foods thats responsible for the positive outcome.
Studies show a diet higher in protein keeps you feeling full and tends to decrease overall calorie intake, at least in the short term .
A diet lower in refined carbohydrate and fat typically found together in junk food also favours a reduction in calorie intake. This is because of how calorie-dense and highly palatable junk foods is.
Then theres also the loss of water that accompanies carb reduction. Alongside fat loss, this makes the bathroom scales shift favourably, and quickly .
The combination of these factors is why a low carb diet so often leads to weight loss. Replacing refined carbs with protein can help to consistently curb your appetite and reduce total caloric intake, without relying on willpower.
Summary: Many are successful on a low carb diet because it automatically higher in protein, which helps to curb appetite. They also typically eliminate all junk foods, which is where our excess calories come from.
Learn To Estimate Food Portions
A very practical technique for counting carbohydrates is the portion conversion method. Portion conversion involves estimating the volume of a serving of food by comparing it to a common object such as your fist, a soft drink can or a milk carton, and then converting the volume into a carbohydrate count based on the typical carbohydrate content for a known amount of that type of food. This approach is particularly useful when having a complex meal , dining out, or eating foods that vary in size .
Heres an example of how it works: You know that one cup of cooked pasta contains about 40 grams of carbohydrate. Next, you estimate that the portion of pasta youre about to eat is 1 1/2 cups by visually comparing the amount of pasta on your plate to a 12-ounce soft drink can. You then do the math to determine that youre about to eat 60 grams of carbohydrate.
Here are some common measuring devices that can be used to mentally calculate portions:
Average adults fist = 1 cupBaseball = 1 cup
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What Enzymes Are Used To Break Down Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates, abundantly present in foods such as breads, cereals, fruits and vegetables, are the main source of energy in a diet. During digestion, a series of enzymatic reactions break down the carbohydrates in these foods into simple carbohydrates that are easily absorbed in the small intestine. While complex carbohydrates require enzymes such as salivary amylase, pancreatic amylase and maltose for digestion, simple carbohydrates require little or no enzymatic reaction before absorption.
How Carbohydrates Fuel Exercise
Complex carbohydrates are an efficient source of energy that fuels muscle contractions. Once eaten, carbs are broken down into smaller sugars to be used as energy for immediate tasks. Any unused glucose is converted into glycogen and stored in the muscles and liver for future use.
Glycogen is the energy source most often used for short, intense bouts of exercise such as sprinting or weightlifting. Because glycogen is stored in muscles, it is immediately accessible. During bursts of activity, the stored glycogen is converted back to glucose and burned for fuel. This is the typical energy source for the first few minutes of any sport.
During endurance exercise, glycogen can also break down fat into something the muscles can use for fuel. Protein can also be broken down and used as a last resort, but this stresses the kidneys and limits the body’s ability to build and maintain muscle tissue.
Beyond muscle contraction, carbs supply energy to the brain. If you have ever felt low energy or experienced a brain fog during exercise, it is likely because you are not getting enough carbs.
Consuming enough carbohydrates ensures you have access to the energy you need for exercise. It also helps maintain mental sharpness for endurance sports.
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Carbohydrate And Blood Glucose Levels
Because carbohydrate directly influences blood sugar levels, it is important to be aware of how much carbohydrate you are having at each meal.
It is often easy to underestimate exactly how much carbohydrate youre having, particularly when eating starchy foods such as pasta, rice and potatoes.
Referring to the nutrition information and weighing out certain foods will help you to see how much carbohydrate you are having.
Carbohydrates In A Balanced Diet
To maintain energy, eat carbohydrates before and after intense exercise. It is equally important to eat a balanced diet with the appropriate proportion of carbs, proteins, and healthy fats. Generally speaking, that means at least 50% of your daily energy intake should come from carbohydrates, 35% or less from fats, and the remainder from protein.
For athletes, the proportion may need to be adjusted to accommodate increased energy needs. So, for example, an athlete might need to get 60% of their calories from carbs and limit fats to 30% or less.
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How Do You Use The Food Label To Count Carbohydrates
Looking at a food label, find the serving size and the total carbohydrate in that one serving. Note: Total carbohydrate includes sugar, starch, and fiber. Use the grams of total carbohydrate when carbohydrate counting.
To calculate the number of carbohydrate choices in that particular serving, simply divide the amount of total carbohydrate by 15.
Refer to the following information to assist with calculating carbohydrate choices:
- Grams of Carbohydrate 0-5
*This content has been reviewed by Dr. David Kitts
Dietary carbohydrates include starches, sugars, and fibre.
- Use of Dietary Carbohydrates as Energy. Glucose is the primary energy source of the body. Major dietary sources of glucose include starches and sugars.
- Digestion of Carbohydrates. Dietary carbohydrates are digested to glucose, fructose and/or galactose, and absorbed into the blood in the small intestine.The digestion and absorption of dietary carbohydrates can be influenced by many factors.
- Absorption of Carbohydrates. Absorbed carbohydrate molecules are used immediately for energy or stored in various forms in the muscles, liver or adipose tissue for future use.
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Is It Bad To Eat A Lot Of Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates have gotten a bad reputation over the years. Diets like Atkins and South Beach promote quick and easy weight loss, which can be very appealing to people trying to lose weight. These diets claim that by limiting the amount of carbohydrates you eat, you can turn your body into a fat-burning machine.
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How Can I Keep My Blood Sugar Stable After Intermittent Fasting
It is also possible to maintain stable blood sugar levels after fasting. Eat plain low-carb foods to avoid spikes in blood sugar and maintain a fat-burning regimen. Ultimately, with intermittent fasting, it’s important to find the right tools to help you with your daily routine, rather than sticking to fasting techniques.
Why Are Simple Carbohydrates Bad For Your Health
A diet rich in simple carbohydrates can harm your health. It can cause a variety of health problems, such as an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity, not to mention cavities and other dental problems. When choosing certain foods, try replacing processed and simple carbohydrates with these complex ones.
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What Are Carbohydrates Exactly
Carbohydrates are your bodies primary and preferred energy source. More specifically, the primary source that fuels your brain and central nervous system. Pretty important right?
Carbohydrates are basically simple sugars made up of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen linked together to form what are called digestible or indigestible polysaccharides found in plants and grains.
It is recommended that 45-65% of your daily diet should come from carbohydrates. 25% alone fuels your brain and central nervous, the remaining carbs are used for energy and energy storage in your muscles and liver as glycogen.
Fiber is an important component of many of the carbohydrates we consume. Insoluble Fiber is a polysaccaride that cannot be broken down in the body. Fiber acts as sweeper in our small intestine and helps eliminate waste. Since fiber is eliminated it adds NO calories or nutrients to our bodies.
Soluble Fiber: Dissolves a bit during digestion yielding a gel-like substance called Beta glucan. It is still indigestible, but can be broken down by gut bacteria potentially yielding nutrients or other molecules that impact metabolism. Beta glucan has been linked to improving LDL levels and boosting heart health.
Fiber rich, carb-forward foods also contain more unsaturated fat then saturated fat which aids in in protection from heart disease and stroke.
How Does Carbohydrate Affect Anyone With Type 2 Diabetes
For people with Type 2 diabetes who may be overweight or obese, reducing the calories you eat helps to lose weight. This can be done through different means including following a low carb diet or simply reducing the current amount of carbs you eat. People have successfully followed low carb diets to lose weight and manage their diabetes including lowering their HbA1c, cholesterol and blood pressure levels as well as reducing the amount of diabetes medications they take. If you are taking diabetes medications that put you at risk of hypos, checking your blood glucose levels regularly and speaking to your healthcare team to review your medications will help to reduce your risk of hypos when you restrict your carb intake.
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