“Carbohydrates are made up of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen molecules. Sugars, starches, and fibers are all considered carbohydrates. Our digestive system breaks down carbohydrates and eventually releases them into the bloodstream in the form of glucose. Glucose is essential to life: it provides fuel for the brain and central nervous system.”
Carbs are used as energy during exercise. They fuel the brain, central nervous system (CNS), assist in burning fat and preserve muscle. “Fat is burned in a carb flame.”
Glycogen is essentially stored carbs in the muscles and liver, we have a limited amount of “storage space”, roughly enough to fuel a 2 hour run dependent on speed.
To support CNS, maintain red blood cell production, protect our immune system and fuel our brain (this takes 60% of glucose stores) an average sized woman requires a bare minimum of 130g of carbs per day, around 520 calories. Think of carbs as 40 – 45% of your daily food intake. Everyone tolerates carbs differently and actual amount needed depends on body size, activity levels and personal tolerance.
A carb deficiency stresses the body, when training low carb the body relies on fat for fuel, the body also stores more fat so its available for the next time the body is under stress.
Other symptoms may include
- Muscle loss
- Physical weakness/lack of stamina
- Poor immunity (you may find yourself getting sick a lot)
- Delayed healing of wounds
- Feelings of sadness/irritability/depression
- In extreme cases, malnutrition or starvation.
From experience, I cut carbs considerably when I first got into fitness, even though I got awesome results and felt great for a time, this lack of carbohydrates lead me to female athlete triad, I lost my periods for over 2 years which is definitely not a good sign. Its been 2 years of having my period back, I’m still having issues with my hormone levels and now find it difficult to maintain my ideal body composition.
As we age, our sensitivity to carbs increase as we produce less oestrogen, if we overload on carbs they can negatively affect blood sugar levels and impact our metabolism.
Too many carbs may lead to “hypo glycemia, insulin resistance, and Type 2 Diabetes. In addition, you may experience weight gain, difficulty losing weight, or even obesity.”
Not all carbs are equal though. The best sources are fruits, vegetables, grains, beans and whole/ancient grains, stick with the lower GI options.
Examples of 15g of carbs
1/2 cup oats = 15g
1/2 English muffin = 15g
1/2 large corn on cob = 15g
1/3 cup hummus = 15g
Apple = 15g
3 cups popcorn plain = 15g
Check out the back of food labels for more information. You don’t need to count everything obsessively, however take an interest and be aware of what you are consuming. Count the total carbs per serving size.
**Data taken from 2 sources Dr Stacy Sims Roar and Precision Nutrition. I am not a nutritionist, I’m sharing the information of others and from my own personal experience.