Updated: Feb 16
All green plants produce carbohydrates, starch and sugar, in their leaves through the action of sunlight, carbon dioxide and water.
Sugar comes in many forms. Sucrose, or common table sugar, is a disaccharide which breaks down during digestion into the simple sugars glucose and fructose.
Glucose is the primary sugar in blood; fructose is the primary sugar in fruit. Other common disaccharides are maltose (malt sugar) and lactose (milk sugar).
Chemical terms ending in-ose indicate sugar.
Complex sugars are longer-chain sugars composed of fructose and other simple sugars. Relatively short complex sugars called stachyose and raffinose occur in beans and other legumes; longer ones occur in certain plant foods like artichoke and seaweed.
Humans lack digestive enzymes needed to breakdown these sugars into their simple components. However, some individuals have certain beneficial flora in the large intestine that break down complex sugars with innocuous carbon dioxide as a by-product. Cooking also breaks down these complex sugars to a certain extent.
Most humans are able to digest starch, a polysaccharide composed exclusively of glucose molecules. During the process of cooking, chewing and especially through prolonged enzymatic action during digestion, the starches are broken into separate glucose molecules.
Glucose enters the bloodstream via the small intestine where it supplies energy wherever the body needs it, for accomplishing cellular processes, for thinking or for moving. As the body uses glucose for all its processes, it can be said that sugar is essential for life.
But the body does not need to ingest sugar, or even large quantities of carbohydrates, to produce it. There is a caveat here however, ee are perfectly capable of producing adequate glucose in the absence of dietary carbohydrates and sufficient calories to fuel essential tissue on a day to day basis., bu if you intend doing anything beyond that though, carbohydrates become a fundamental requirement. (More on this below).
Only during the last century has a person's diet included a high percentage of refined carbohydrates. Our ancestors ate fruits and grains in their whole, unrefined state. In nature, sugars and carbohydrates, the energy providers, are linked together with vitamins, minerals, enzymes, protein, fat and fibre. The bodybuilding and digestion-regulating components of the diet.
In whole form, sugars and starches support life, but refined carbohydrates calls on the bodies own store of vitamins, minerals and enzymes for proper metabolization.
When B vitamins are absent, for example, the breakdown of carbohydrates cannot take place, yet most B vitamins are removed during the refining process.
The all-important level of glucose in the blood is regulated by a finely tuned mechanism involving insulin secretions from the pancreas and hormones from several glands, including the adrenal glands and the thyroid.
When sugars and starches are eaten in their natural, unrefined form as part of a meal containing nourishing fats and protein, they are digesting slowly and enter the bloodstream at a moderate rate over a period of several hours.
If the body goes for a long time without food, the mechanism will call upon reserves stored in the liver. When properly working this marvellous blood sugar regulation process provides our cells with a steady, even supply of glucose. The body is kept on an even keel, so to speak, both physically and emotionally.
When we consume refined sugars and starches, particularly alone; without fats and protein, they enter the bloodstream in a rush, casing a sudden increase in blood sugar. They body’s regulation mechanism kicks into gear, flooding the bloodstream with insulin and other hormones to bring blood sugar levels down to acceptable levels.
Repeated onslaughts of sugar will eventually disrupt this finely tuned process, causing some elements to remain in a constant state of activity and others to become worn out and inadequate to do the job.
The situation is exacerbated by the fact that a diet high in refined carbohydrates will also be deficient in vitamins, minerals and enzymes, those bodybuilding elements that keep the glands and organs in good repair.
Our physical nature is such that we need foods that are whole, not refined and denatured, to grow, prosper and reproduce. As the consumption of sugar has increased, so have all the civilised diseases.
Carbohydrates and Weight Loss
The vast majority of weight loss most will see from low carbohydrate diets is brought about by the alteration in cellular fluid levels alongside the inherent reduction in calories.
Any “weight loss” strategy usually revolves around the omittance of a common food type or group in which someone removes, the emphasis here is ‘remove’, not replace thus the weight loss comes from lowering the net amount of calories consumed by foods that have commonly graced their plates in excess, typically these are carbohydrates.
People don’t know what to replace them with, or the foods that are banned are the calorie dense or hyper-palatable foods they resonate towards.
Typically a non-sustainable approach to weight loss.
Carbohydrates and Muscle
Readily taking in carbohydrates to fuel workouts and day to day activity serves multiple purposes. It allows us to keep blood glucose at a steady state fueling the working muscles and enabling a higher work capacity , assuming that it’s delivery is fast enough and efficiently gets into cells to do so.
Carbohydrates within the diet also allows the highly anabolic hormone, insulin to come into play. The action of insulin will help protein synthesis and ensure that the catabolic actions of protein breakdown are kept to a minimum. Carbs for this reason are known as a ‘protein sparing’ nutrient. This obviously limits the breakdown and usage of protein as a fuel source.
It also inhibits the catabolic effect brought about by lower blood glucose and insulin. Someone simply removing carbohydrates from their diet, without simultaneously providing protein to pick up the ‘caloric slack’ so to speak will, over time decrease the ratio of fat loss and increase that of protein. Counterproductive if the building or maintenance of muscle tissue is the goal.
It is important to understand that carbohydrates are essential if we want to perform at our best, but where those carbohydrates come from matters, specially if long-term health is a goal of yours.