Carbohydrates-calories, constitution, myths by Vishwa Kiran
Carbohydrates are found in a wide array of foods—bread, beans, milk, popcorn, potatoes, cookies, spaghetti, soft drinks…. They also come in a variety of forms. The most common and abundant forms are sugars, fibers, and starches.
The basic building block of every carbohydrate is a sugar molecule, a simple union of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. Starches and fibers are essentially chains of sugar molecules. Some contain hundreds of sugars. Some chains are straight, others branch wildly.
An important distinction among carbohydrates is whether they are simple or complex. Simple carbohydrates include Monosaccharides and disaccharides. Monosaccharides available from foods (glucose, fructose) are already in their simplest form and include those sugars in fruits and honey. Disaccharides are two monosaccharides bonded together and are found in table sugar (sucrose) and milk (lactose).
Complex carbohydrates, Polysaccharides have a molecular structure that is more difficult to break down, which means it takes longer to digest and absorb them. Digestible polysaccharides are primarily made up of starch and dextrins and are found in potatoes, wheat, corn and other vegetables. Partially digestible polysaccharides, such as raffinose and stachyose, are found in beans and legumes.
Key points concerning carbohydrates include the following:
Main fuel of the central nervous system, brain and red blood cells.
Protein sparing. Without carbohydrates, protein must be broken down into glucose for brain and red blood cell metabolism.
Needed for complete fat breakdown. In the absence of carbohydrates, fats metabolize to ketones which are very acidic.
Provides fiber, which is important for the colon.
Bind toxins. The liver uses carbohydrates to excrete toxic substances that enter the body.
Provide 4 Kcal (kilo calories) of energy per gram.
Carbohydrates should constitute 55-65% (mostly complex carbohydrates) of total dietary intake of a dancer. The average person needs about 50-100 grams of carbohydrate a day to avoid a buildup of acidic ketones (ketosis).
Bursting some myth about carbohydrate based diet-
Going on a short term high protein, low carbohydrates diet is the best way to lose fat.
It’s a good way to lose water and muscle, but a lousy way to lose fat. The body reacts to a low- carbohydrate diet much the same way it reacts to starvation because ingested protein and fat cannot be used for body fuel like carbohydrates. In reality 75% of the weight lost during such diet is water, with the rest coming mostly from muscle stores. This is due the fact that when insufficient carbohydrates are ingested, the body must use its stores of glycogen for fuel, which are primarily in the muscles and liver. Because water is needed to store glycogen, when glycogen goes so does a great deal of water. In fact muscle itself is about 70% water.
The coup de grace occurs when one decides after a week or two of this diet to start eating carbohydrates again, even if the total intake is still low on calories. The body first reacts in rebuilding its glycogen stores, which will restore the original pounds of water, and then some, in no time. Then the body starts rebuilding its depleted fat stores. The body has become much more energy efficient by this time so even a normal intake of food supplies excess calories, which are then stored as fat. People often berate themselves for regaining lost weight (and usually more) after one of these low carbohydrate diets, thinking that they just can’t control themselves. In reality it is sort of biologic manifest destiny that the weight be regained. The body has long been skilled in survival and adaptation, much longer than we have tried to look good on stage in a yellow leotard.