Updated: Sep 10, 2018
What Happens When I Eat Carbohydrates?
1. Food goes into mouth
2. Mouth chews and swallows
3. Body converts carbohydrates into glucose
4. Glucose enters bloodstream
5. Glucose has to go somewhere
6. Insulin is released and takes glucose to one of three places: muscles, liver or body fat; where the glucose goes will ultimately determine your body fat levels.
Insulin, Cupboards and Fat
When blood sugar levels rise, your body releases insulin to help these levels return to normal. Insulin’s job is to shuttle the glucose (and other nutrients) in your blood stream to an appropriate storage place, so it can be used for energy when required.
Your body has three cupboards that it can store glucose in:
Muscles (stored as muscle glycogen)
Liver (stored as liver glycogen)
Fat (stored as…body fat)
The muscles and liver cupboards are your body’s preferred storage spaces. However, storage capacity in the muscles and liver is limited (approximately 300 – 400g can be stored in muscle cells and approximately 100g can be stored in the liver). When these storage spaces are full, the body has to store the glucose somewhere else, so it is stored as fat…
Unfortunately, there is pretty much unlimited space in the fat cupboard. So, if your muscle and liver cupboards are full, and you eat a bowl of pasta for lunch, a pizza for dinner and a sugary drink somewhere between, these carbohydrates are going straight to the fat cupboard.
Different Types of Carbohydrates
Different types of carbohydrates are digested and absorbed at different speeds and have different effects on your body. The digestion and absorption rate is important as it influences blood sugar levels, basically it will determine how quickly and how high blood sugar levels rise.
How Many Carbohydrates Should I Eat?
Eat non-starchy vegetables with every meal and as snacks.
The quantity of natural starchy carbohydrates needed per day depends on activity levels. Assessing how active a life you lead and monitoring your energy levels will help you determine whether you are suited to a low, high or moderate carbohydrate intake.
Some people experience mood swings and feelings of fatigue when they drastically reduce their starchy carbohydrates whereas others feel lethargic after consuming carbohydrate heavy meals. A middle ground is therefore the best place to start and then adjust depending on the results.
If you are a lower carb person, then more fat and protein needs to be consumed to make up your daily calories and likewise less fat should be consumed if a person is suited to a higher carbohydrate intake.
Everyone should aim to eat more vegetables regardless of if they are following a lower, moderate or higher carbohydrate protocol; body compositions don’t worsen from eating large quantities of non-starchy vegetables.
Fuelling for Training
When fuelling for high intensity training it is best to choose carbohydrate sources that will give you a slow and steady rise in blood sugar, such as boiled sweet potatoes, two to three hours prior to your training session.
When fast sugar is required a piece of fruit is a good choice, even better if you can consume some protein with this.
Refined carbohydrates i.e. energy bars, sugar loaded sports drinks and sweets should form no part of your nutritional program and will do nothing to support your body composition goals (or your general health).
Be wary of ‘healthy’ products such as ‘sports bars’, cereal bars and ‘natural’ yoghurts; these, apparently healthy products, are often loaded with refined sugar.
This information is taken from Nutrition Simplified which is available as a free download here