Nutrition Articles

Skinny on Carbohydrates

carbs_killMacronutrient Basics – Carbohydrates – Part 1


A carbohydrate is considered to be the most basic unit of energy for one’s body to ingest. In simple form, all carbohydrates are eventually broken down into glucose (simple sugar) molecules that are used to supply our muscle and tissues with energy to perform daily tasks and exercise. The question then becomes what types of carbohydrates should one be ingesting? The answer to this question is varied; however, 90% of the time complex carbohydrates should be the top choice for this particular macronutrient. A complex carbohydrate is such that the body has to work to eventually break it down into an energy supplying food. This is important because as long as one’s body is continually breaking down food it is having to work, and thus its blood sugar is going to be better stabilized and will be a consistent supply of energy.

Overall, carbohydrates should make up approximately 40-50% of an individual’s daily intake. Based on an 1800 calorie menu this would equate to 900 calories of carbohydrates; or rather, 225 grams. This number will increase by 12-15 grams per each additional 100 calories of caloric intake throughout the day.

What’s It Good For?

Carbohydrates (or starches) in its simplest form is used for immediate energy in the human body. There are various types of carbohydrate classifications, all of which play different roles in terms of energy in the body.

Monosaccharides (or simple sugars) are an important component of coenzymes necessary for energy production in the body. As well, they are the backbone of the genetic molecule commonly referred to as RNA which is a related deoxyribose component of an individual’s DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid)

Disaccharides (and polysaccharides, also known as complex carbohydrates) serve as the storage for energy in the form of starch and glycogen. As well, they act as structural components in common vegetables and plants. Saccharides and their derivatives include many other important biomolecules that play key roles in fertilization, blood clotting, development and immune systems as well.

Although carbohydrates are not necessary building blocks for other molecules, they still play the most dominant role in the production of immediate energy from the body. One could argue that all the necessary energy can be obtained from fats and proteins; however, the issue is that as the body requires different forms of energy for differing tasks it also requires differing forms of energy intake. It is for this reason that carbohydrates play a role when immediate energy is necessary.

One of the most dominant examples of a time when glucose may be immediately necessary is found in the fact that the brain (and neurons associated with the brain) are unable to utilize fat for energy and thus require glucose (or ketones). Humans can synthesize some glucose in the form of gluconeogenesis from specific amino acids as well as the triglyceride backbone found in some acids; however, this process is much less efficient and can lead to reduced brain activity short term.

When Do I Eat It?

Carbohydrates are essential throughout the day; however, the types and amounts of carbohydrates will vary based on the goals of the individual as well as the timing of the meal. Earlier in the day it is typically better to eat carbohydrates due to the fact that the body just experienced a prolonged period of fasting throughout the night and will need immediate energy to bring it out of a fasting state (hence, the term breakfast). As the day progresses there should be a balance of appropriate levels of complex and fibrous carbohydrates at each meal to allow for blood glucose stabilization; however, the role of fats and proteins will take dominance as a day goes on.

Before exercise it is essential that complex carbohydrates are ingested to ensure that energy is readily available to body tissue to perform accordingly. As well, immediately following exercise is an appropriate time to ingest simple carbohydrates as typically blood glucose does take a plunge during exercise as it has been burned by muscle tissue that is active.

During the end of the day, complex and simple carbohydrate sources are not necessary as the body no longer requires the immediate purpose of starches that is energy. The ingestion of fibrous foods before bed time is not an issue as they will typically only work to create a greater feeling of satiety in the stomach and in turn will limit the urge to snack on inappropriate foods at night time.

Simple vs. Complex

Simple carbohydrates are those that are essentially already broken down into basic forms of energy, and in turn one’s body does not have to work to process and break them down into usable energy. In some instances (such as low blood sugar times, such as post-exercise) this type of nutrient is suffice; however, one’s body thrives off of long-term energy acquired from complex carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates can be identified by utilizing a Glycemic Index Scale as discussed later.

Fiber: Soluble vs. Insoluble

Included as another form of complex carbohydrates are fibrous foods and vegetables. This is because fibrous foods work to increase feelings of satiety by filling an individual’s stomach, as well as providing additional nutrients to the body. There are two types of fiber that need to be accounted for, soluble as well as insoluble fiber.

First off there is soluble fiber that functions to bind with the fatty acids that are ingested and prolong stomach emptying so that an individual has the opportunity to feel fuller, longer. It also monitors and regulates the rate at which sugar is digested which is crucial for the treatment and prevention of diabetes. Soluble fiber also has a direct correlation to the levels of bad cholesterol in your body. Good sources of soluble fiber are: rolled oats, nuts, barley, flax, fruits, vegetables, as well as pysllium husk. All of which should be included as part of a healthy menu.

Next there is insoluble fiber, and although similar to soluble fiber it plays a different role in digestion. Insoluble fiber works to move bulky foods through the intestines as well as control the pH balance in an individual’s intestinal tract (so is to reduce the risk of heart burn or other pains that could be associated with digesting foods). Insoluble fiber works to push food through our GI tract and has a direct correlation to the prevention of constipation. This is important, because over time if food has the opportunity to build up it can start to grow microbes in ones colon and may eventually cause a disturbance in pH in the intestines. This is dangerous as such symptoms have led to cancers of the colon. Good sources of insoluble fiber are: seeds, nuts, fruit skins, and dark vegetables (such as green beans and asparagus).

The most important thing to take away from all this is that an individual’s body needs direct fiber sources in order for it to function properly. Introducing more whole grains, fruits, nuts, and vegetables into an everyday menu will have a dramatic effect on both weight loss as well as leading a healthy lifestyle. The average individual requires about 25 grams of fiber per day, more specifically about 20 grams of insoluble and 5 grams of soluble. However, as long as you are getting your 5 servings of fruit and vegetables as well as at least 3 whole grain servings a day (oats, pysllium husk, etc.) then one is more than likely to be reaching their daily fiber requirements.

Glycemic Index Scale

The glycemic index scale is the measure of the effects of specific carbohydrates on the blood sugar levels in the body. Carbohydrates that break down quickly during digestion will release glucose into the bloodstream at a rapid rate, and thus would be considered to be high on a GI scale. On the other side, carbohydrates that are slow on the release of glucose into the bloodstream upon digestion are considered to be low on a GI scale. A lower glycemic index response in the long term equates to a lower insulin demand by the body and improves blood glucose control. A Glycemix Index Scale runs from 0-100, while the following would represent a typical GI scale:

Classification GI Range Examples
Low GI 50 or Less Most fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts
Medium GI 51-65 Basmati rice, sweet potato, banana, melons
High GI 65+ Bread, breakfast cereals, glucose, maltose


The glycemic index concept has been developed to characterize food behaviour during human ingestion. It should be noted that some foods that are considered to be composed of complex carbohydrates can still be categorized high on a GI scale due to certain a variety factors including, but not limited to, the preparation of that food as well as the degree to which it was processed.

Water and Exercise Performance

Water and Exercise Performance

water-for-weight-lossThe human body is comprised of over 60% water, and yet most North Americans still falter to achieve a dietary intake of sufficient water!  It has become all too common for individuals to leave their bodies in a dehydrated state, whereby they leave themselves at risk for many negative health patterns as well as they lack the ability to recover from exercise!

Because the body is mainly made up of water, it is understood that body tissue, bones, as well as joints rely heavily on water to stay lubricated and in a performance state. Water also acts as a main transport unit in the body, meaning that it is responsible for the transportation of nutrients in and out of a cell membrane that aid in cell repair as well as cell duplication. This cellular repair is what allows us to heal from exercise and build new lean muscle tissue that is responsible for helping in weight loss as well as providing greater joint structure and strength in a given area.

Water acts a regulatory agent in the flushing of toxins through the body, and can work in conjunction with circulatory systems and the lymphatic system to rid the body of unwanted waist. As well, aiding in digestive patterns in the gastrointestinal tract. Water is also a positive factor in the regulation of body temperature, by letting the body sweat the body is able to release water from its pores in order to cool the body and avoid exhaustion.

When the body is dehydrated it can fall victim to “cardiovascular drift”. This is a state in which the bodies water capacity is so low that its overall blood volume has suffered. This means that the heart must hard to move a smaller amount of blood around the body during times of both exercise and recovery, in order to move nutrients and glycogen to much needed muscle cells for synthesis and further energy production. This decrease in blood volume due to dehydration causes an increase in both resting and working heart rate volume, and will cause the body to feel tired and sluggish sooner! Therefore, as an athlete, or even just the average gym-goer, proper hydration is important to keep your body performing in tip top shape!

If staying hydrated becomes an issue, it may also become important to supplement a balanced electrolyte supplement that will aid in the absorption and utilization of water once certain electrolytes have been expelled from the body during times of exhaustion or sickness.

Regardless, the benefits of water are astronomical, and chances are it is something you are neglecting! As a female you should be aiming for a minimum 3L per day, and as a male you should be aiming for a minimum 4L per day. However, if you feel parched and feel like you can drink more, then do it! And don’t be shocked if in the first few days of your new water regimen you find yourself using the bathroom a little bit more often. This is completely common, and will regulate itself quickly. The body is designed to adapt to new stimulus, and it will learn to function and perform better with the extra hydration.

Diabetes and Exercise, More Than Just Weight Loss

When it comes to diabetes and exercise, there is no secret that exercise is a very important part of controlling type 2 diabetes. One of the major reasons that so many individuals are developing diabetes is due to a large increase in fat deposits stored on the body, and decreases in lean body mass to fat mass ratios. One of the major causes of becoming overweight is the poor diet and lack of exercise that majority of North Americans are falling victim too. Both of these things lead to a chemical imbalance in the bodily hormones which in turn can lead to poor digestion, weight gain, and eventually insulin resistance.

While maintaining a diabetic friendly diet you should also be engaging in a regular exercise regimen. Sometimes it may feel difficult to find time in daily life to exercise, but it is an essential part of in the treatment and prevention of type 2 diabetes. For someone already falling victim to diabetes, regular cardiovascular exercise can help to increase total caloric expenditure and aid in overall weight loss. Simple exercises to get started are fine such as walking, hiking and biking, but eventually it may take a more adventurous challenge to give your body the kick start it needs! Considering kickboxing, Zumba, or even personal training has proven effective in shedding weight and increasing lean body mass.

Exercise offers a variety of benefits for people with type 2 diabetes aside from its effects on weight loss. Most notably, exercise increases the body’s sensitivity to insulin which decreases the amount of insulin an individual would need to keep going on a daily basis. By lowering blood sugar levels, it can sometimes even eliminate the need for medication! Exercise also aids in lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Of course exercise is also critical in reducing the risk of heart disease and circulatory issues. Combined with a balanced and nutritious menu, rich in whole foods, exercise can drastically increase the effects of type 2 diabetes on the body as well as treat the overall symptoms and possibly stop the disease all together.

The aid of a nutritional expert is crucial and they can help you plan a nutritious and balanced menu that combines the proper types of carbohydrates, taking into account a glycemic index scale as well as staying away from artificial sugars and processed foods that can further hinder digestive and hormonal patterns. Using healthy fruits and vegetables, as well as whole grains combined with essential fatty acids and proteins help to manage and reduce the prevalence of diabetes.

These two things are the same yet different, do you know why?

The Real Secret to Fat Loss

These two things are the same yet different, do you know why?

Last week I shared a video about setting your total daily caloric intake. This week on build on that with discussion of foods and energy and the confusion that many people seem to have about permanent weight loss. Though it’s true we want to use more energy than we give the body in an effort to lose body fat we have to do so subtly. We must gently encourage the body to give up it’s survival resource for our own vain reasons. Traditional weight loss only continually sets you up for rebound, sickness, injury and disease. I think you’ll see that for yourself once you understand the basic premise of food energy, different sources of food energy and how your body uses this energy in return.

As a Red Deer weight loss coaching I’ve been educating my clients on this topic for well over a decade, I hope you find this short video helpful in reaching your own goals.