miércoles, 24 de noviembre de 2010

Nutrition I: Carbohydrates

Hi everyone!

I hope you are doing well. I hope that the weekend has given you the opportunity to enjoy with your family and refuel your energies for the week which just begun.

Today I will give some general ideas about nutrition. It is important to note that on this issue there are so many different views as specialists in the area, each person is a different world and in general there is no generic recipe that provides us everything we need. Each person has different goals, live a different reality and have different histories, this translates into different requirements and therefore different strategies in dealing with nutritional planning. Yet there are some fundamental concepts on which most experts agree, and which can help us, by simple changes, to improve our quality of life.

It is important to clarify our goals before we start talking about sports nutrition, because this will condition all the strategy. In this point I must say that while sports nutrition often focuses on maximizing our performance, this does not necessarily go hand in hand with maximizing our health and well-being. In fact, through the management of nutrition, we can never achieve maximize our health, well-being  and our performance at the same time. Ideally then, to get the right balance between health, welfare and performance, consistently with our aspirations seems to be the best strategy.

A common mistake in those sports, is the indiscriminate use of products made to improve our performance. Most times, we are not clear about the damage they may cause to our health in the long term. Damages that may be justifiable in case of a professional who must improve their marks as work, but are not justified in case of someone which is doing sport to be healthy.

It is clear that the quality of our nutrition has a direct influence on the prescience of many of the diseases that affect us as a society. This is the case of cancer, obesity, hypertension, osteoporosis, diabetes, among others. The presence of these diseases in our society grows each year, all hand in hand with the growing presence of poor nutritional food and bad eating habits.

The first to take toward our goal is to understand the role of each nutrient in our body.

Carbohydrates: Sugar, the ideal fuel.

It is true that our body can use any macronutrient, carbohydrate, protein or fat for energy, by converting the macronutrient in simple sugar as glucose, this is the preferred fuel for all cells in our body. In this respect are the carbohydrates that are more easily processed.

Many of us think in food as a source of energy. This misconception has been amassed by the misuse of the concept in advertising. In the scientific context, the term energy refers to electricity produced by the brain during sleep. In wakefulness, the rate at which we use this energy is greater than the rate at which this is created, why, after a few hours, we will be "out of energy". Recuperating after a few hours of sleep, we wake up full of energy again, ready to face another day.

On the other hand, food is considered as fuel. Through the process of digestion, we used our own energy to burn fuel (food) and in the process release energy in them and use it for our benefit.

To simply explain the difference, consider a car. It is clear that the fuel (petrol, diesel) is quite different from the energy provided by the battery. Both components are useless without the other, but combined they are capable of generating movement and activity.

As human beings we have a very limited capacity to store carbohydrates or protein, in fact so as to ensure future use as energy, our body must store these nutrients as fat. If you do not have enough carbohydrates to meet our requirements, our bodies require fat as a fuel element, the process by which our body converts fat into sugar is called gluconeogenesis (creation of sugar). While this process can help in extreme situations, in the absence of carbohydrates, gluconeogenesis does not produce only glucose but also produces a substance called ketons. The ketons have a similar effect to alcohol on the brain's chemical activity, and adversely affect our ability to make decisions.

Advances in the understanding carbohydrates, allow us to categorize this nutrient into three categories

1 .- Simple sugars (one or two sugar molecules): They can be found in a wide variety of foods, including fruits, vegetables, honey and milk. The main exponents of this category are glucose, fructose, galactose, dextrose, lactose and maltose.

2 .- Oligosaccharides (composed of 3-9 sugar molecules): Some are completely digestible while others are not. Among them are maltodextrin, raffinose, verbascose, among others.

3 .- Polysaccharides (10 or more sugar molecules) found starch present in rice, grains, legumes, and fiber in fruits, vegetables and grains.

The first two members of this classification are those that provide the nutritional information can be found on product labels. Our body can directly use simple sugars and can break down the oligosaccharides into simple sugars to convert it and use as fuel.

Overall, we found the simple carbohydrates in the form of refined sugars (extracted from fruits, grains and sugar cane) or complete simple sugars like those found in fruits. Unlike carbohydrates in the third group, those belonging to the first two categories are detected by taste buds present at the tip of our tongue.

Unfortunately, it exists because of the lack of information, we tend to consider the simple sugars and refined sugars as the same thing. Regardless of the simple sugar found in foods such as whole fruit is in essence profoundly different.

There are two main trends in the community in tackling the daily intake of carbohydrates.

The first is to have a low consumption of carbohydrates at the same time we increase our consumption of fat. As human beings need a certain amount of fuel to perform in our daily activities. By decreasing the amount of carbohydrates, necessarily must obtain those calories from another source. The fact that all natural sources of protein are inextricably linked to natural sources of fat, this translates to an increase in our consumption of fat. In 2001, it published a study showing that those who follow a diet low in carbohydrates lose weight only because their daily calorie intake is lower than its consumption, it can have harmful effects on the health of the individual (see Journal of Obesity Research).

Some of the consequences of such strategies are as follows,

- Malnutrition.
- Cancer, osteoporosis and diabetes.
- Heart disease.
- Poor performance in physical activities.
- Increased blood pressure.
- Rapid decline in blood pressure upon standing.
- Sudden death.

Given the problems that a diet rich in fat can generate, and given the daily requirements of micronutrients (more on them in another issue) not present in refined foods, the second approach is based in having a high intake of complex carbohydrates and at the same time reduce our consumption of fat. In principle, this approach may seem successful. The problem is that the nutritional quality of food declines significantly with the cooking and complex carbohydrates are found mainly in grains and legumes, which must be cooked to be digested. The cooking process in most cases required to perform the dehydration of cooked food, this loss of water brings about a significant loss of vitamins and generate a condition known as acid toxicity, which can lead to who consume this type diets to develop conditions such as cancer, arthritis, hypothyroidism, chronic fatigue, among others. Of all the vitamins, vitamin C appears to be the most important in maintaining tissue integrity and proper functioning of our immune system. Interestingly of all the vitamins, vitamin C is the most easily is destroyed by heat, a fact that will have serious consequences if such regime is not accompanied by a significant intake of fresh fruits.

For my presentation today will reach here. I hope at this point, we have a better idea of the importance of good planning is our food strategy and the role that carbohydrates play in our body.

We also discussed the main weaknesses of the two most popular approaches about carbohydrates consumption and this is where I would like to ask you considering the given information, to you to propose a third strategy to solve the problems in the first two. Next time I will give the solution to the problem, but I advance that, strangely, is the most logical and natural.

A hug for everyone. This week starts my specific training for the Ultraman, meaning in the first instance that I will progressively increase the number of hours of training. I'll tell in detail the activities performed and appreciate any comments or suggestions in this subject!

Take care and enjoy doing sport!


Ref: The 80/10/10 diet. Douglas Graham, 2006.

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