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Types of carbohydrates and their role in weight loss

Tipos de carbohidratos y su función en la pérdida de peso

Carbohydrates have always gotten a bad rap, mainly because they are associated with "gaining weight." But in reality, not all of them are bad for you. Do you know all the types of carbohydrates there are?

Understanding the basics about them will give you an advantage because this way you will know how they act on your health and performance.

Here we will teach you all of them and how you can use them to your advantage in your goal of losing weight.

What are carbohydrates ?

Along with protein and fat, carbohydrates are one of the three main nutrients found in food and beverages.

They are sugar molecules that your body breaks down into glucose. And blood sugar is the main source of energy for your body's cells, tissues, and organs.

Glucose can be used immediately or stored in the liver and muscles for use in all your daily tasks.

types of carbohydrates

There are two types of carbohydrates: simple and complex.

  • Simple carbohydrates are smaller, easier to process molecules known as monosaccharides and oligosaccharides. These contain one or two sugar molecules linked together.
  • Monosaccharides: They are the simplest form of carbohydrate and cannot be further broken down as they contain only one sugar group. Examples: glucose, fructose, galactose, mannose, and ribose.
  • Oligosaccharides: consist of short chains of monosaccharide units. Examples: sucrose, maltose, lactose and trehalose.
  • Complex carbohydrates: They are called polysaccharides, since they have more than two sugar groups linked together.
The digestible: starch and glycogen dextrins.
The partially digestible: inulin, raffinose.
The indigestibles: cellulose, pectin.

  • Polysaccharides: are long chains of monosaccharide units, all together.

Each carbohydrate subtype has different effects on your body, and depending on their structure and food source, they affect:

types of carbohydrates

Everything you should know about the types of carbohydrates

  • In the digestion process, many people do not tolerate carbohydrates well. But this has a lot to do with the types that consume. Believe it or not, they play a fundamental role in digestion.
  • If you are on a diet consisting of simple sugars and refined carbohydrates, the body breaks them down faster and you may notice certain elevations in blood triglyceride levels, bad cholesterol, and insulin resistance.
  • But if you're on a diet that contains: whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, these carbohydrates are slowly digested and absorbed, and can help you control your insulin response, energy levels, and body composition.

Why is variety so important?

Why is it so important that you eat different types of carbohydrates?

It's important because they are a primary source of immediate energy for every cell in your body.

The different types of carbohydrates you eat are broken down into simple sugars before they are absorbed by the body, regardless of what you ate. Whether you ate a jar full of sugar or a bowl of high-fiber, low-glycemic oatmeal, the process will always be the same.

It's just that "healthier carbs" are digested and absorbed much slower, while "unhealthy" carbs are digested very quickly. So when you have a sugary drink or dessert, you are more likely to get hungry again very quickly.

Once broken down and absorbed, these sugars go directly to your liver where they fill up your energy stores. They then enter your bloodstream and venture out to the other cells in your body. This is when insulin is released to handle this "sugar load."

A heightened insulin response can be beneficial for you at certain times, such as after an intense workout. There are also times when they are not good, like before going to bed.

Recommended intake of carbohydrates

The amount of carbohydrates you should consume depends on your body size and activity levels:


And it will also depend on the intake of fats and proteins that you have in your diet.

  • The minimum recommended intake of different types of this macronutrient is 130 grams per day for the general population.

Excess carbohydrate consumption will be stored in your liver and muscles for future use, either as fat or glycogen.

And depending on the speed at which you digest and absorb them, it will impact your body composition and your health.

Carbohydrate-insulin ratio

Carbohydrate-insulin ratio

In the last two decades, carbohydrate phobia has skyrocketed. It is believed that to lose weight you have to eliminate ravioli, rice, potatoes, bread and even fruit.

The reason is that many people believe that carbohydrates and insulin increase weight. But they assure that the solution is simple:

If you follow a low carb diet, you will keep your insulin levels low and cause you to lose weight quickly. And all without having to worry about calories.

This is all based on the so-called carbohydrate-insulin hypothesis, which refers to the fact that when you eat carbohydrates, your body releases insulin.

And depending on the model:

  • Prevents your body from burning fat for energy.
  • It drives fat and sugar from the bloodstream to the fat cells.

But are insulin and carbohydrates partners?

But are insulin and carbohydrates partners?

So that you understand 100% the carbohydrate-insulin model, I will explain the following:

When you eat different ones, like starch and sugar, they are quickly broken down into glucose and absorbed into your bloodstream, raising your blood glucose levels.

To make it easier to understand, the more carbohydrates you eat, the higher your blood glucose level will be immediately after eating. However, your body works to tightly regulate your blood glucose levels. (The normal range for glucose is 70 to 100 mg/dL.)

Throughout the day your body wants to maintain this blood glucose level, to keep you healthy and to keep your systems working optimally. Because if you have very high glucose levels it can cause many health complications.

Finally, are insulin and carbohydrates partners? Yes they are. Both accompany each other in their processes to provide your body with energy.

What is insulin?

Insulin is your body's key regulator of blood glucose. When you eat carbohydrates and blood glucose rises, your body, specifically your pancreas, releases insulin.

Insulin is needed to transport glucose from the blood to your muscles and fat cells. It is there that it can be used as energy or stored for later use.

Without insulin, your blood glucose levels would remain elevated for a much longer period. And that would be very bad.

When blood glucose goes up, insulin goes up. And remember, if you eat a lot of carbs at one meal, your blood glucose and insulin levels rise more than when you eat fewer carbs.

But it does not end here. Everyone responds differently to the same amount of carbs and it depends on how you are...

What is insulin?

In general, the leaner and more active you are, the more sensitive your cells will be to insulin.

Does Insulin Stop You From Burning Fat?

Not exactly, but it influences the rate at which your body burns fat.

In addition to insulin's role as a key regulator of blood glucose, it is known that:

Insulin inhibits lipolysis :

During lipolysis, stored fatty acids are moved out of fat cells and into the bloodstream, where they can be used for energy.

When this process is inhibited, as occurs when insulin levels are high, fewer fatty acids are available to fuel muscles and other metabolically active tissues.

Because of this, insulin spikes are equated with knocking out your body's ability to burn fat.

Insulin stimulates lipogenesis :

During lipogenesis, fatty acids move from the bloodstream to fat cells, where they are stored for later use. This is often called "fat storage mode," something most people try to avoid.

Additionally, lipogenesis can also cause carbohydrates to be converted and stored as fat. However, it only occurs when there is a general surplus of carbohydrates and calories. That is, you constantly consume more calories than you burn.

Think of it this way: if you have $100 in your pocket and want to buy $25 worth of vegetables, you wouldn't go to the ATM for more cash. You would use the money you already have.

Similarly, with insulin, why would your body release stored fat into the bloodstream for energy when there is already plenty of incoming energy available?

One could conclude that insulin is a real problem for fat loss. But be careful with this, because its purpose is not to make you fat either.

Can insulin be a problem?

When your body is functioning normally, glucose and insulin are in sync. When blood glucose rises, enough insulin is released to bring glucose back into the normal range.

But there is also a scenario where you can have too much insulin. This is generally believed to happen when cells become resistant to insulin, a condition known as insulin resistance , a precursor to type 2 diabetes .

Insulin resistance is related to a number of factors including:

Can insulin be a problem?

With insulin resistance, it takes more of this hormone to get the same amount of glucose into your cells. And as the condition worsens over time, insulin levels can stay elevated even when you haven't eaten anything. This is called hyperinsulinemia .

It is not yet known exactly why insulin resistance occurs. It is believed to be caused primarily by chronically elevated levels of fatty acids in the bloodstream.

What is known is that people who are obese or have more visceral fat are more likely to be resistant to insulin.

But there is a light at the end of the tunnel. If they lose excess body fat, the problem of insulin resistance is often resolved.

Can I lose weight with diets low in different types of carbohydrates?

Yes, no, maybe, sometimes. The truth is that there is no exact answer.

In many studies, ranging from a few weeks to several months, low-carb diets have often outperformed high-carb diets.

But is it specifically due to a metabolic advantage? Or do low carb diets offer other benefits?

A popular and logical explanation is that people on this type of diet consume fewer calories than on a diet high in different classes.

Most studies show that a low-carb diet can lead to greater weight loss, but this research is not conducted with controlled eating.

It doesn't matter if you avoid eating all types of carbohydrates or eat a lot of them. One thing is for sure, you can't separate a calorie from its source.

I'll give you an example: soda contains sugar, but an apple does too. And both foods are different kinds.

After all this explanation, I leave you with a list of foods that make up simple and complex carbohydrates. This will make it easier for you to choose which ones to include in your diet according to your body goal:

Can I lose weight with diets low in different types of carbohydrates?
Can I lose weight with diets low in different types of carbohydrates?


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