Did You Know Carbohydrates Aren't "Bad" For You...

Carbohydrates have been misaligned and demonised for far too long. They’ve been the scapegoat of nutrition for the past decade, whereas the decade before it was fats… funny hey. People don’t stop to think that maybe it’s a severe decline in physical activity and increase in total caloric intake that’s been a major reason for the health concerns we’ve seen to date. Yet I digress, as that’s for another time

Putting things into context, we'll be quite blunt off the bat - it’s incredibly amateur, and possibly dangerous to minimise carbohydrates in a young athletes or adolescents diet. Yet again, things get taken way out of context

Some will argue how there’s no such thing as an “essential carbohydrate” but there are essential amino acids (proteins) and essential fatty acids. This is flawed and amateur thinking that not only produces some physiological damage, but also mental damage

The key thing to remember is that adolescents are still growing, and as such they require nutrients and resources to grow from. And more often than not exercise also enters the equation (especially in young athletes), which only adds to the need for more resources that allow for repair and even more growth

For some reason though, there’s this bad stigma around carbs, and they’re either being portrayed as ‘fattening’, or all grouped under the all evil “sugar” (I’ll be honest, I myself used to have this mindset many years ago when I was suffering through my dark times), but it’s just not true

It’s harmful. And it’s a goddam shame. And so, here’s three brutal truths you need to hear about carbohydrates:

Carbohydrates are the body’s preferred fuel source


They’re what we work and perform best on. They’re also the brains only source of fuel... Yep, the brain can only utilise carbohydrates. Our body will convert protein and fat into carbohydrates, via a process known as gluconeogenesis, so that the body can utilise the carbohydrates

Every single carbohydrate is broken down into the same molecule in the body

This molecule is known as glycogen, the stored form of carbohydrate within the body. It doesn’t matter if it’s an “Allen’s” lollie or a Sweet Potato, they both get broken down into glycogen by the body. The difference comes in the speed of this process - it's slower for a Sweet Potato due to it’s chemical structure - and also in the other nutrients within the food. For instance, a Sweet Potato is full of amazing fibre, Vitamin A, and Vitamin B6

They're essential for recovery and growth

If we think of building a house, proteins are our bricks, and carbohydrates our workers. Without workers, we’d just end up with a big pile of bricks. The carbohydrates however, elicit a hormone known as insulin, which shuttles proteins and other molecules from the bloodstream into storage (either muscle or fat)

So what’s the problem?

In regards to the adolescent population, the problem lies in the amount of carbohydrate eaten in comparison to the physical activity levels of the child (hell, this is the same as the adult population). By many people, some adolescents included, they're being overconsumed. But it's solely not the carbohydrates, it’s the type, the amount, and the adolescents level of physical activity. So as you can see, it's quite a complex little equation

When choosing your carbohydrate sources, some amazing choices include potatoes, tubers, rice, pasta, wholegrains, wholegrain cereals, wholegrain breads, beans, lentils, fruits, and vegetables

Carbohydrates essential for all, and in many occasions they’re required in larger quantities for active, growing kids and athletes - however for the more sedentary individual, smaller amounts are a smarter choice

Everything in moderation…

There you have it. Don’t be scared of your carbohydrates, as you need them. Eat them in common-sense amounts that match your activity and training levels. And remember, always make the best possible choice you can at any given time

N.B: the reason there was no mention about “ketogenic" style eating, is it’s far too complex for the intention of this article, and there is no need at all to group that style of eating with this demographic

NutritionNick Maier