Carbohydrates (carbs) are often at the centre of great debate within nutrition circles. Many advocate that carbs are the devil and are the sole reason for the obesity epidemic. Others place carbs on pedistool suggesting they are the only food source we need. Unfourtunatley both sides can cherry pick enough evidence to back up there claims although the truth is that we likely still don’t have research to make a definitive conclusion. Therefore, let’s look at what we do know and try and keep it nice and simple (as it should be).

Carbs are carbon, hydrogen and oxygen molecules and are found in sugars, starches and fibre. Once we eat a carb our digestive system breaks them down in glucose and from there transports the glucose through the bloodstrem. If the glucose is not needed then the body stores it in the liver and muscle tissue as glycogen. If the body requires glucose for energy but doesn’t have any readily available in the blood stream then the body can liberate glyocgen from the liver and muscle tissues and covert it back into glucose for energy use.

Glucose is essential to life as it provides fuel for the brain/CNS and a quick fuel source for muscles when they are working. Think of carbs as twigs and leaves on a camp fire, they provide a quick fuel source to keep the fire going but don’t last very long, hence why we use larger peices of wood to keep the fire burning for longer periods (this is fat).

Carb groups
Carbs can be categories into 3 groups –
1. Fruits and vegetables (sugars + fibre) – spinach, acrrot, broccoli, apples, banana, berries
2. Minimally processed starchy – whole grain bread, pasta, rice, potatoes
3. Simple sugars highly processed starches – cereals, soft drinks, juice, chips
To keep it simple the foods above are the main sources of carbs we can take advantage of but are not excluded to just this list.

How much carb should I eat?
Suggested servings depend on the goals you are trying to achieve –
Fat loss
– 0-1 cupped hand for men and 0-1/2 cupped hand for women
– 1-2 fist sized vegetables
Muscle gain
– 2-3 cupped hand for men and 1-2 cupped hand for women
– 1-2 fist sized vegetables
– 1-2 cupped hand for men and 1/2-1 cupped hand for women
– 1-2 fist sized vegetables

Notice that simple sugars and highly processed starches aren’t included, this is because we want to minimise this food as much as possible (especially for fat loss). These foods not really provide any nutritional value and may even ahve negative side effects on our health (i.e. insulin resistence/diabetes). One potential time they can come in handy is when your goal is muscle gain and recovery. Although, even then we want to limit these foods to just post workout consumption as they provide a quick replacement of glucose lost through exercise. For muscle gain they also seem to have a positive effect on anabolism (muscle repair/growth).

At the end of the day the jury is still out about carbs, we need more research and evidence to strongly support any claims. For now it’s best to keep it simple and self experiement with what works best for you and your goals.

Try this recipe!

Miso Vegetable Brown Rice
1⁄3 cup Brown rice
1 cup Vegetable broth
1 cup Water
1 tbsp Miso
Olive oil cooking spray
1/2 cup mushrooms
1/3 cup Onion (small diced)
1/3 cup Zucchini (halved and sliced0
1/4 cup Red pepper (sliced)
1 tsp Ginger (grated)
1/4 cup Sunflower seeds
1 tbsp Cilantro

1. Rinse the rice under cold water.
2. Bring the broth to a boil in a medium-sized or large pot.
3. Add the miso and stir until dissolved and then add the rice while stirring.
4. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for 45-55 minutes.
5. Preheat a non-stick frying pan on medium heat, lightly coat with spray, add the mushrooms and sauté until they have shrunken a little.
6. Then add the onion, zucchini and peppers and sauté for 3 minutes more.
7. Now add 1 tablespoon of the broth from the cooked rice, and the ginger, and sauté for 1 minute more.
8. Put the veggies and the cilantro into the rice and stir.