This is the third article in a series of articles on the subject of
In the past two articles I introduced the topic of nutrition
and expanded upon the subject of proteins.
I discussed how small amounts
of high-quality protein combined with carbohydrates have been found to have a
significant impact on the body’s protein synthesis, much more so than just
eating large amounts of proteins.
It is with this information in mind
that I will start our discussion on carbohydrates, a misunderstood subject that
has a bad reputation.
Carbohydrates are the bread and butter of all
foods. They are sugars and starches that are part of most everyday foods such as
breads, fruits, vegetables, milk, honey, pasta, cereals, syrups, popcorn and of
Carbohydrates are what our brain functions on and supplies
energy for our entire body. Our bodies favor this energy source that is broken
down into glucose, which the blood brings to all the cells in our
Glucose is used for energy – it powers the cells in our body and
helps power our muscles when we are involved in physical activity.
muscles use up our glycogen (a chain of glucose) when we work out. If athletes
do not consume enough carbohydrates, they might not have enough glycogen stored
in their body and will likely experience symptoms of fatigue.
right amount of carbohydrates is a smart choice to prevent glycogen
An athlete’s performance relies greatly on the types of foods
that are eaten several weeks before a competition.
If athletes are smart
and monitor their diet to make sure they are receiving the right amount of
nutrients – such as carbohydrates – in their diets, they should have enough
glycogen stored in order to engage in physical activity.
constantly coming up with new ways to classify and make sense of the many
properties of carbohydrates.
In the past, carbohydrates were classified
as complex or simple carbohydrates, which referred to the complexity of the
Complex carbohydrates correspond to food made of 3 of more
sugars, and these were once thought to be healthier than simple
However, this is an oversimplification and the
classification only makes sense from a chemical perspective.
instance, white bread and white potatoes are considered to be complex
carbohydrates. However, most people would argue that these are not healthy
carbohydrates at all.
A newer classification system called the glycemic
index classifies carbohydrates based on how quickly they raise blood sugar
levels in the body, in comparison to pure glucose.
In theory, foods with
a low glycemic index, like chickpeas, should be digested slower, causing a
smaller and softer change in blood sugar.
Foods that receive a score of
70 and above are considered to be high in glycemic index (for instance, french
fries), while foods that receive a score of 55 and lower are considered to have
a low glycemic index (like whole oats).
Besides needing more research to
validate its credibility, the glycemic index does not take into account
digestible carbohydrates, which is the amount of carbohydrates that are digested
in the upper gastro-intestinal tract, that then enter the blood
Therefore scientists developed another classification system that
considers the amount of carbohydrates in food, as well as their effect on blood
sugar levels. This system is called the glycemic load.
The glycemic load
can be calculated by multiplying the glycemic index by the amount of
carbohydrate contained in the food in question.
This is important
because, for instance, a snickers bar would fall into the category of low
glycemic index – and it is clearly not a healthy food choice. A healthy food,
such as watermelon, is considered to have a high glycemic index.
value of carbs Now that we have an adequate background to understand some of the
classification systems that scientists are using to evaluate the quality of
carbohydrates, it’s time to turn to the original question at state, which is the
value of carbohydrates.
Many popular diets for the past several years
have been treating carbohydrates like they are the plague. And studies have
found that the Atkins diet, which severely restricts carbohydrates, is very
However, when examined more closely, it appears that in some
of these studies, the participants did not follow the diets as prescribed and
ingested sometimes triple the number of carbohydrates recommended.
of these studies found that whether or not participants stuck with their diet
was a better predictor of continued and maintained weight loss, as opposed to
what diet they went on.
Currently, health and nutrition experts recommend
that between 55- 60% of the calories in our daily diet should come from
carbohydrates, while only 30% should come from fats and only 10-15% from
This is all contrary to what the average person believes they
should be eating: a diet high in protein with little to no
It should be noted that these numbers can vary depending
on the type of activity an athlete is engaging in and should only be taken as
So what are some good carbohydrates? I recommend
eating products that list as one of their first ingredients whole grains or
whole oats. Whole wheat bread, for instance, is very healthy.
comes to rice, it’s a good idea to eat brown rice.
For pasta lovers,
whole wheat pasta is a good option, or at least pasta that is a combination of
half whole wheat and half white flour. Beans are an extremely good source of
carbohydrates as well.
What is important is that you are receiving
carbohydrates in your diet (between 55-60%) and not restricting it so that you
are receiving no or little carbohydrates.
Remember, you can not go wrong
Next week, I will delve into the subject of
hydration, emphasizing fluid intake and output during sport activity.The
above information is supplied by Yonatan Kaplan PT PhD (Candidate). Director,
Jerusalem Sports Medicine Institute, Lerner Sports Center, Hebrew
For further details, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, call
Yonatan at 054-463-9463 or visit www.jsportmed.com
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