Many things are complex carbohydrates. Paper and wood for example, but you can’t eat them?
In terms of food, complex carbohydrates are generally starchy in nature, and there is no greater battleground than breakfasts cereals. Let’s compare the information panels of two supposedly healthy breakfast cereals and see what they tell us – Weet-Bix and Vita Brits.
Weet-Bix is 67% carbohydrate with 3.3% sugar. Vita Brits is also 67% carbohydrate but only 0.4% sugar.
Products with sugar this low are very rare. Unfortunately our palate is used to sweet things and likes sugar in most things.
Stated simply, the Vita Brits is the best source of complex carbohydrate I have come across, although Weet-Bix is also pretty good.
So what’s so important about complex carbohydrates anyway.?
Well, we’ve seen that how our body runs on glycogen as fuel. As it happens, there is only a certain level of glycogen that they body can tolerate. If it gets below this, you essentially run out of fuel – a phenomenon that athletes (marathon runners in particular) refer to as “hitting the wall.” – Where you lose all your energy, and even standing up and moving a few paces is an enormous chore.
If your blood glycogen gets too high, however, that can also cause problems, and so your body will have to remove glycogen.
It does this by supplying insulin, which essentially converts the glycogen to fat.
Now if glycogen can be converted to fat, then it makes sense to see that fat can be converted to glycogen.
So there are two potential sources of fuel (fat and complex carbohydrates). If we have sufficient complex carbohydrates on board, our glycogen levels never get too high, and the body simply breaks down the complex carbohydrates as required, and fat doesn’t enter into the picture.
So in an ideal world we’d all eat food which was low in sugar and high in complex carbohydrates.
But in the real world that doesn’t happen of course – we eat too much sugar, it gets converted to fat, and we put on weight.
So how do we get rid of the fat, and cause it to be broken down?