I am a self-confessed sugar addict, and despite being a pretty keen cyclist, I still do struggle with weight and diet issues. When I'm riding everything evens itself out and I'm able to maintain a pretty healthy weight, but throw a spanner into that mix and it all goes south pretty quickly. With the recent robbery, I found myself off the bike for over three weeks, and even thought this was a short time - my waistline suffered.
This prompted some dieting research and action. I know my problems and I know how to fix them. Basically, I love sweets and chocolate milk, pasta and bread - all of which fall into the category of 'bad carbs'. So, basically I eat too many 'bad carbs' and I really need to replace them with good 'complex' carbohydrates. But I wanted to know why exactly some carbs are bad, when we know that we need them to survive, and we definitely need them to race. I put together the below post to basically summarise what I learned, and I must attribute much of this post to articles from Livestrong.com, Harvard.edu and Readers Digest.com, which had some great articles on the topic! Also, I am no health professional, so please don't take what I have here as gospel, and I encourage you to do your own wide-ranging research when trying to work out a diet that is right for you.
Carbohydrates are your body's preferred energy source and are one of the three main macronutrients it needs to function properly. If they are consumed in moderation carbs can provide your body with energy and multiple nutrients. However, excessive consumption of carbohydrates has a number of disadvantages. Forty to 60 percent of your daily caloric intake should come from carbohydrates, but this intake can easily come from ‘good carb’ foods like whole grains, seeds, nuts, fruits and vegetables.
What are ‘bad carbs’?
Bad carbs are white flour, refined sugar, and white rice. More broadly, any food made primarily of a carb that has been processed in such a way as to strip out ingredients that hinder quick and easy cooking. Why are refined carbs a problem? Easy: They digest so quickly that they cause blood sugar surges that lead to weight gain and other health troubles.
Carbs making us slow and tired
All of these bad foods and processed carbs can have an effect on the liver. Our livers can get overloaded with toxins from all of the bad foods we eat. It is suggested by some that the liver can get less efficient at ‘flushing’ these bad toxins out. Overloading our bodies with these bad toxins can have an effect on energy levels and can cause ‘fogginess’ in the brain. Our bacterial flora in our stomachs can also become unbalanced from bad carbs and can also have an effect on energy levels and cause ‘brain fogginess’.
Bad carbs making us hungry
Eating too many carbs causes a large, sudden increase in your blood glucose levels. Your body responds by releasing high levels of insulin which causes a large, sudden decrease in your blood glucose levels shortly after. As a response to these low glucose levels your body sends out hunger signals. The overall effect is that you experience hunger pangs shortly after eating a big serving of carbohydrates even though you have eaten more than enough to provide your body with energy.
Carbs causing cell damage and type 2 diabetes
Consuming excessive levels of carbohydrates on a regular basis can lead to obesity and high blood glucose levels. This has a number of negative implications on your body's cells as high blood glucose levels can damage your nerves, your blood vessels, your heart, your eyes and more. Obesity and high blood glucose levels can increase the risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes.
How to get off bad carbs
Processed carbohydrates, such as white rice, white pastas or white breads, lack many of the fiber and nutrients found in complex carbohydrates such as brown rice, brown pastas and whole-grain breads. To ween the body off refined carbs, gradually decrease the amount of processed carbohydrates you eat and replace them with whole-grain carbohydrates.
Instead of toast, fruit bread, and sweet milk drinks > Eat whole grain cereals, fruit, tea, water
Instead of white bread sandwiches, noodles and pasta > Eat whole grain breads and pita wraps and salads
Instead of rice, pasta and noodles > Eat brown rice, casseroles, meat and 3 veg. Accompany casseroles, pasta sauces and curries with lentils, chickpeas, brown rice or quinoa
Snacks and drinks
Instead of soft drinks, cordial, fruit juice, milk drinks, chocolate, chips, biscuits, cakes and lollies > Eat fruit, seeds, nuts, and drink water and tea (I find drinking soda water is a great substitute for fizzy drinks)