Why are carbohydrates important?
Carbohydrates are an essential nutrient group (alongside fats and proteins) that play an important role in our diet. They are the main source of energy and play a crucial role in many metabolic processes in our body. It is recommended to get more than 50% of energy from carbohydrates, but less than 10% of that from simple sugars.
In this blog article we will look at the different types of carbohydrates and what you should consider when consuming carbohydrates. The fact is that carbs are essential to life, so there is no such thing as bad carbs. We also discuss why whole grains are better than highly processed foods. We will also understand how carbohydrates are converted into energy in the body and briefly describe the glycemic index.
What type of carbohydrates do exist?
Carbohydrates come in different versions:
- Simple Sugars (Monosaccharides) - These carbohydrates consist of a single sugar unit (based on their chemical structure). Examples include glucose, fructose, and galactose (honey, apple, etc.). Simple sugars are easily digested and can be quickly absorbed by the body since there is almost no processing necessary. That is what our well-known gels are made from.
- Disaccharides - These carbohydrates consist of two sugar units that are chemically bonded together. Examples of disaccharides are sucrose (household sugar in the form of sugar beet), lactose (milk sugar) and maltose (malt sugar). Disaccharides must be broken down into their single sugar units in the digestive tract before they can be absorbed by the body.
- Polysaccharides - These carbohydrates are made up of a long chain of sugar units. Examples of polysaccharides are starch, glycogen and fiber. Polysaccharides are broken down into glucose in the digestive tract and serve as long-term energy storage in the body. Dietary fibers are carbohydrates that your body cannot process, but are very important for your intestinal flora. Because of this fiber has no calories.
In the food industry, simple and double sugars are the so-called “added sugars” and must be declared. They should only make up 5% of your daily calories. But unfortunately they are way too often in almost any product.
Beneficial and vital properties of carbohydrates.
- Source of energy - Carbohydrates are the preferred source of energy for our body. glucose, a simple sugar, is the primary fuel for the brain and muscles. Without adequate carbohydrate intake, fatigue and reduced performance can occur. However, the simple sugar can also be produced from the multiple sugars in the body. In particular from food with a high glycemic Index.
- Variety of nutrients - Carbohydrates are found in many foods such as grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes. These food groups not only provide carbohydrates, but also a variety of vitamins, minerals, and fiber that are important for a balanced diet.
- Feeling of fullness - High-fiber carbohydrates like whole grains and vegetables can give you a feeling of fullness for a long time. This can help prevent overeating and weight gain. That's the opposite of highly processed foods that often no longer contain fiber.
In our products we have paid particular attention to points 2 and 3. With RabbitFuel you can bring positive diversity into your diet during adventures. Our RabbitFuel Endurance Pouches are a combination of high and low glycemic index nutrients to provide you fast but also long-term energy.
What should you should consider with your carbohydrate intake:
- High intake of highly processed carbohydrates - Excessive consumption of refined carbohydrates such as white bread, sugary drinks and sweets can cause blood sugar fluctuations and increase the risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes and obesity.
- Lack of fiber - Insufficient intake of fiber-rich carbohydrates can lead to digestive problems such as constipation. Fiber is important for healthy bowel function and may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Individual intolerance - Some people may have trouble digesting certain carbohydrates, such as lactose. It is important to pay attention to the individual needs and reactions of your own body.
How does the body convert carbohydrates into energy?
After digestion in the gastrointestinal tract, carbohydrates are converted into their smallest unit, glucose (simple sugar). Much of the glucose travels through the bloodstream to cells where it is used as an immediate source of energy. Some of the glucose is stored in the liver and muscles as glycogen for later needs.
When the body takes in more glucose than it actually needs, this will be converted to fat and stored in fat cells. This is described in detail by the adenosine triphosphate (ATP) cycle.
The glycemic index
The glycemic index (GI) measures how quickly carbohydrate-containing foods cause blood sugar levels to rise. It assesses the effects of carbohydrates on blood sugar and is based on a scale of 0 to 100, with 100 representing the blood sugar regulation of pure glucose. Low GI (55 or less) means a slow rise in blood sugar, while high GI (70 or higher) causes a rapid rise. The GI is relevant for diabetics and people who want to control their blood sugar. Low GI foods include whole grains, legumes, and certain fruits. High GI are often easily digested carbohydrates that are easily available. This often leads to a rapid increase in insulin and thus to possible feelings of hunger.
Summary of carbohydrates
Carbohydrates are an important source of energy for our body. They come in different typs. A balanced intake of carbohydrates, especially from high-fiber sources such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables, is important for a healthy diet. However, it is advisable to limit consumption of highly processed food and sugary foods to reduce the risk of disease. These lead often to high fluctuations of blood sugar levels and thus to food cravings. Everyone should consider their individual needs and reactions to carbohydrates and aim for a balanced diet to ensure the body has the optimal supply of energy.