Afraid of bread and carbs?

Meyken Houppermans, PhD. CrossFit Level 3 Trainer
Founder and Head Coach
Carbohydrates are power suppliers, not your weight gainers. Carbs sources are grain products, rice, potatoes, legumes, fruit and vegetables.

What are carbohydrates?

There are several types of carbohydrates such as the simple fast carbohydrates and complex slow carbs. The fast carbohydrates are especially in white products such as white bread, white rice, fruit and sugar. Fast carbohydrates often have a sweet taste. The slow carbohydrates are in whole grains and certain kinds of vegetables.
In addition, carbohydrates can be divided into digestible and indigestible. Fibers are indigestible carbohydrates. They play an important role in your body such for a good health of your heart and gut.

Why do you need carbohydrates?

Your body needs energy to function. Energy is supplied by carbohydrates, proteins and fats. The most important and best accessible source of energy for your body are carbohydrates. Your body can also use proteins and fats as fuel, but these two macronutrients mainly have other functions for your body. If you use them as fuel, they are no longer able to fulfill their own initial function, such as muscle building by proteins and transport of vitamins by fats. In addition, it is more difficult for your body to use proteins and fats as fuel. Furthermore, the brain can almost only use carbs for fuel. This implies a low carb diet can negatively affect brain functioning and mental health.

Besides being an important power supply, carbs contain many other important nutrients such as B vitamins and minerals such as iron and magnesium for energy, that among other things can prevent muscle cramps and sugar cravings.

How many and what type of carbohydrates do you need?

The Dutch Health Council advises that the average total daily intake should be made up of 40 to 70% carbs. The adequate amount depends on numerous factors, such as daily activity level, body composition and health status. Fact is that eating more carbs than necessary, leads to weight gain because the body converts and stores the unused carbs as fat.

Finding out your ideal adequate intake is a matter of calculation and then trial and error. Calculations give a rough estimation of how many carbs you need and can be made based on your daily activity level, body composition and goals (for example if you want to lose or gain weight, or if you have certain sports goals). Based on the calculation it is a matter of trial and error, to test how your body responses to the intake, because every human body has a unique response to food.

Apart from the amount of carbohydrates, the type of carbohydrates is essential: Fast carbohydrates give fast and short- term energy (a quick fix). They often do not contain other relevant nutrients and can lead to sugar cravings and an increased intake (one cookie leads to another). Complex carbohydrates provide a longer-lasting energy supply, often contain other relevant vitamins and minerals, lead to less sugar cravings or increase intake (one portion of broccoli often does not lead to another)

Myth busted

The negative image of carbs is fed by the fact that meals, home made as well as take away and restaurant meals, often contain too much carbs such as bread, pasta, rice and potatoes. For restaurants, these products are cheap and many people prefer a large meal (the bang for the buck). In addition, many people like carb rich products such as cookies, dough- products and fries.

Too much and unhealthy highly processed carbs will lead to weight gain and can negatively affect health. Yet, the complete omission of carbohydrates is also unhealthy.

A well balanced diet should contain carbs in the form of healthy minimally processed products such as whole grain products and vegetables, in the individually adequate amount. This provides energie, vitamines and minerals for the body to function optimally.