Carbohydrates aren’t a guilty pleasure – they are a necessity. Your body depends on carbs (the healthy ones) to function properly – whether lifting your mood or making sure you don’t lose your hair.
If you feel fatigued after training, with heavy legs and low motivation, it’s often because you’re in a carb-depleted state. Put when you’re trying to lean out and build muscle it’s tempting to forget carbs all together. However, no amount of steamed chicken will get you ripped on your own.
Need more proof? Here are 10 reasons to keep starching on.
1. Stabilize sugar levels
Your body stores some unused sugar as glycogen in the liver and muscles, but converts the rest to fat. Low GI carbs – oats, beans and whole grain bread – avoid that fat-storing process by breaking down slowly for a steady rise in blood sugar The Food Standards Agency advises a third of your daily calories should be starchy; two slices of toast and a sandwich gets you halfway there.
2. Decrease bloating
Low-carb diets cause bad breath and low energy but the real curse o is constipation. Carbs are our main source of fiber – they’re what gets things moving. That means that you’re less likely to feel puffy because your body will naturally eliminate waste more efficiently.
3. Increase your endurance
For intense exercise, forget the low GI rule – temporarily. Sugary carbs deliver an instant hit of energy. For any activity longer than 60 minutes, you need between 30- 60g of carbs per hour. A banana packs 36g.
4. Beat infections
A carb-deficient diet can increase cortisol levels soaring, which means a higher chance of you calling into work sick. Keep breathing clear with immune-boosting beta-carotene, found in sweet potatoes.
5. Speed muscle recovery
According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, ingesting a post-workout carb fix helps to release insulin and putting you into an anabolic, muscle-building state. But it only works when you take in protein and fat, too, which is why chocolate milk – which hits all three – became a sought after recovery drink.
6. Lower blood pressure
While meat sends blood pressure soaring, plant foods lower it says the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, which reported that whole grains alone can slash hypertension by 19%. Ease the pressure with quinoa – 80g provides almost half your RDA of blood vessel-relaxing magnesium.
7. Boost your brain power
Carbs are fuel for your body because they contain glucose, which is your body’s number one source of energy. Protein and fat work, too, but carbs are definitely number one. The good news is sweet. Mental stimulation is packaged in punnets: scientists have linked carb-rich berries to reduced oxidative damage in the brain, which follows earlier research that a blueberry smoothie maintains concentration for up to five hours.
8. Lift your mood
Tryptophan, the amino acid that boosts serotonin levels and makes you feel great, is found in protein-rich foods like egg, turkey and cheese. But you need to serve these with high-carb foods to feel the effects. Try partnering grilled chicken with a handful of whole grain pasta. Making it for two could boost those feel-good hormones even further.
9. Fight cancer
Your protein-rich diet may be getting you stacked but it could also be putting you at risk of lung and bowel cancer, according the Annals of International Medicine. Combat it with super-carb broccoli, and boost the green stuff’s cancer-fighting abilities with a probiotic yoghurt. A University of Illinois study found good gut bacteria up your intake of broccoli’s big ‘C’ fighting compound sulforaphane.