on Wednesday, 13 May 2015. posted in nutrition

Carbs VS Protein? I'll take both! With all the extreme diets around (some which cut out healthy food groups) I want to talk about why protein and carbs are both equally important and about why a balanced diet, containing all of the macronutrients is the most healthy and sustainable diet.

Protein is important for muscle repair, muscle hypertrophy (lean muscle gain), protein synthesis, biochemical reactions in the body, DNA repair, function and structure of cells, involved in the production of hair, nails, enzymes and more. Protein fills us up, can help us to feel satisfied, reduce hunger between meals so that we eat less, and pretty much can help us to lose body fat and gain muscle.

All sounds great BUT that doesn’t mean that a ‘high protein, low carb diet’ is best, as carbs are also essential for the body, being the body’s main source of energy! Some of the foods that contain carbs are also the healthiest foods we can eat in terms of essential nutrients and vitamins, and carbs are also our main source of dietary fibre, which in my opinion is a wonder nutrient - helping with weight loss/management, feeling full and satisfied, to keep us regular and prevent constipation, to decrease cholesterol, and prevent other health problems and some cancers including bowel cancer.

Carbs are a direct fuel source for when you are being active and when you require energy. Carbs aren’t just important physically, they are also important mentally - your brain NEEDS carbs to function! So it is no surprise that carbs also help regulate your moods, and are important physiologically. Slow release carbs (complex carbs) like your rice, potatoes, oats, vegetables, whole grains, quinoa, wholegrain breads and legumes will release energy slowly, and are also extremely healthy foods providing lots of fibre and a LONG list of nutrients and vitamins which we need, and are so good for us. So why avoid carbs!? We just need to learn how to moderate them and avoid/reduce the processed types like muffins, pizzas, cakes, confectionary, bagels, doughnuts, large serve pastas, sweets, ice cream etc. Simple carbs (sugar, sweets, juice, soft drink and the like) are quick release carbs as they break down very quickly in the body, maybe handy if you are running very long distance or are really active. Otherwise, you are better to reap the benefits of carbs from vegetables, whole grains, legumes and fruits.

Carbs and protein TOGETHER help to ensure muscle glycogen stores are replenished, promote muscle growth & repair and reduce protein degradation (muscle fading away). Even if you are eating enough protein, if you are not eating enough food (starving the body of energy, or the amount of carbs your body needs), your lean muscles will degrade. Depending on your training, goals & energy requirements the quantity you need of each nutrient will vary. For personal protein recommendations check out this article.

Healthy fats like avocado, nuts, olive oil, fatty fish etc. are also crucial for the body to function properly, promoting healthy cell and hormone function for good skin and hair quality and much, much more.

So remember to balance your diet- I like to try to include some healthy slow release carbs, a source of protein and a smaller amount of some healthy fats in each meal, and include some fruit with brekkie and a few veggies/salad with lunch and dinner. The recommendations are to eat at least 5 different veggies a day and 2 pieces of fruit.

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