Glucose can also be synthesised from fats and protein; however, if there is a choice, your body’s cells will prioritise carbs. If the diet is low in carbs, a larger percentage of dietary protein will be used to provide fuel; however, this then means there is less for the growth and repair of body tissues. Thus, carbohydrates have a protein-sparing effect, i.e. when there are both adequate carbs and protein, carbs can be used for fuel and more protein can be used for repairing and growing muscle tissue. This process is particularly important if in a calorie deficit, to maintain as much muscle mass as possible, and also if trying to gain muscle mass too.
Any excess glucose that is not needed or used straight away is then stored as glycogen in our muscles and liver for later use. Stored liver glycogen is then released into the blood to provide energy when needed and to help maintain blood sugar levels between meals. Stored muscle glycogen can only be used by muscle cells, and is used during workouts to provide energy.
If you have all the required glucose in your body and your glycogen stores are full, your body will then convert any excess carbohydrates into triglycerides, which is stored as fat. Therefore, demonstrating not only the importance of carbohydrates in the diet but also the importance of the quantity of carbohydrates, in relation to training intensity and total activity levels.
One type of carbohydrate, dietary fibre, is not broken down into glucose but instead passes through the body undigested. Both soluble and insoluble fibre, which you’ll find in oats, legumes, fruits and vegetables, promote good digestive health by keeping things moving along nicely, preventing constipation, as well as reducing the risk of developing digestive tract diseases. Fibre is also essential for heart health and controlling blood sugar levels, which, in the long-term, helps reduce the risk of heart disease and type two diabetes.
Sources to include in the diet:
• Wholegrains such as quinoa, brown rice, oats
• Potatoes and sweet potatoes
• Legumes such as lentils, beans and peas
Sources to limit:
• Fried foods
• Supermarket white bread
• Sugary drinks
Proteins are the main building blocks of the body. They are used to make muscles, tendons, organs, enzymes, hormones and neurotransmitters, which all serve essential roles in the body. Therefore, regardless of how much exercise you are doing, protein is vital to function. Protein provides four calories per gram.