Hack it with Carbs
By Revathie Dhanabalan
August 5, 2019
Carbohydrates (sugar, starch and fibre) are one of the three main sources of calories, the other two are protein and fat. Our brains need carbs to maintain alertness and concentration. It's also your body's preferred fuel for exercise, especially if you want to run long distances.
Cutting carbs can be hard to do, but if you've decided that this is the year you want to have that beach body, you may need to kiss that char kway teow (792 calories) goodbye. But remember, not all carbohydrates are created equal. The more processed a carbohydrate is (such as packaged foods and sweets), the more it becomes stripped of its nutrients, making its calories "empty".
The healthiest sources of carbohydrates are unprocessed or minimally processed whole grains, vegetables, fruits and beans. These promote good health by delivering vitamins, minerals, fibre, and a host of important nutrients. When you need to satisfy that 'itchy mouth' rather than eating just about anything that is lying around, opt for complex snacks such as Greek yoghurt topped with berries or even unsalted baked cocktail nuts.
Unhealthy sources of carbohydrates include white bread, pastries, sodas and other highly processed or refined foods. Simply put, these 'bad' carbs do nothing for your body. Plus, eating lots of low-fibre and low-nutrient carbs wil lead to excess calories, spiked hunger levels, and often weight gain. So, when you get that craving for black carrot cake at the hawker centre opposite your office for breakfast, maybe opt for overnight oats packed full of fruits and rolled oats instead.
We Singaporeans love our hawker food - basically food in general, but as with all relationships with food, moderation is key. So, how many carbs should you eat? Good carbs should make up about 45 to 65 percent of your daily calorie intake. For example, for a 1,600- calorie diet, that's 720 to 1,400 calories (180 to 260 grams) worth. Not a calorie counter? No problem - just stick to whole foods and grains to get your good carbs. If you're including good carbs and minimizing bad carbs throughout the day, you'll be in the right track.
But for runners, it's a different ball-game. If you've been training for long-distance runs like SSBR, you should be eating about 65 to 75 percent of calories from carbs in days leading up to the marathon. Avoid empty calories and focus on eating good that give you the most nutrients. You won't hit the wall if you fuel correctly and for runners, you should bump up your carbs just a bit, but maintain the same levels of fat and protein.