Being a health nut wannabe mom is not easy. I always feel like I am just on the verge of actually becoming one of those real health nuts but then seem to be bogged down with more questions than answers (or more brownies than berries). So, thank goodness for people like Christopher Warden, a New York City fitness professional and co-author of the book Unlock Your Strength who was kind enough to agree to do a guest post here and clear up some of the most complicated and important questions that I have found on health and weight loss. I kept asking him (he is also getting me in shape for the dreaded swimsuit season as my online personal trainer) about carbohydrates and was so confused (it was like math to me-which I was absolutely hideous at my whole life) and his answers were so helpful that I asked him to share his knowledge with you.
The Most Common Questions about Carbohydrates
Christopher Warden, CSCS
Invariably, every fitness professional gets asked about the topic of nutrition. And why shouldn't we be? After all, sound nutritional habits are the foundation of enhanced performance, aesthetics and health -- as much, if not more than strength training itself. One of the most confounding topics for the fitness enthusiast -- carbohydrates. Here are some of the most commonly asked questions about the topic. If more arise after reading this, please feel free to leave a comment at the end of this post or contact me HERE .
What is a carbohydrate?
•is one of six nutrients utilized by the body. (The other five are protein, fat, vitamins, minerals and water.)
•exists in simple or complex form. Simple carbohydrate is sugar. Complex carbohydrates (simple carbohydrates linked together) are known as starch and fiber.
•is primarily used as a fuel source. The building block for (nearly) all carbohydrates - the simple sugar glucose - is a universal source of fuel for all cells, particularly the brain.
Where are carbohydrates found?
Anything containing sugar, starch or fiber is a carbohydrate. Bread, pasta, oatmeal, cereal, baked goods, candy, rice and potatoes are considered most often, but it's safe to say that every food source from the plant kingdom (leaves, vegetables, fruits, legumes, fungi) - as well as nuts and dairy products - contains carbohydrates.
What is sugar?
Sugar is the simplest form of carbohydrate. It either "stands alone" - as sugars like sucrose (cane/table sugar), lactose (milk sugar), maltose (malt beverages), fructose (fruit/corn sugar) and glucose (blood sugar) - or it's linked together in chains to create the complex carbohydrates -- starch and fiber.
What's the difference between sugar, starch and fiber?
Sugar, as mentioned above, is the simplest form of carbohydrate and requires little/no processing before being absorbed and used as a fuel source the body. Sugar (especially glucose) is also the building block for starch and fiber.
Starch is a complex carbohydrate that is able to be broken down, absorbed and used by the body.
Fiber is a complex carbohydrate that is unable to be broken down and absorbed by the body.
Are carbohydrates essential for survival?
Contrary to common belief, carbohydrate is not an essential nutrient for survival. Is it tolerable and usable? Absolutely. But if carbohydrates were unavailable to us, we could get/create all the energy we needed from fat and protein.
Why are carbohydrates such a significant topic of conversation?
Countless studies show that one of the key factors to health and fitness is the control of insulin - the hormone whose primary role is to regulate blood sugar levels. Chronic, excessive consumption of starches and sugars - something very easily accomplished with the prevalence of grains and processed foods - contributes to chronic, excessive secretion of insulin. This, in turn, has been linked to many of the diseases of civilization: diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, obesity, colitis and cancer, to name a few. Carbohydrates are and will remain an important topic of discussion as professionals educate the masses about the ideal carbohydrate sources for controlling blood sugar, insulin release and overall health.
Stay tuned for Part II of this Q & A when Christopher unveils more answers to some of the most common questions about carbohydrates. . .