Carbohydrates are a vital part of a healthy diet. Some diet experts recommend restricting carbohydrates to facilitate weight loss and increase overall health. Other sports experts advocate a high carbohydrate diet for high energy. Before limiting or increasing your carbohydrates intake, understand what carbohydrates do for you, and what effect too much or too little will have on your body.
All carbohydrates are composed of units of glucose, a simple sugar. Carbohydrate molecules that are large, or "complex," take longer to digest than small carbohydrates like sugar, so they provide longer lasting energy.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends that adults eat six to 11 servings of complex carbohydrates each day, depending on physical activity levels. Two slices of whole grain bread, one medium size baked potato, 1 cup prepared oatmeal or brown rice are all examples of one serving of complex carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates supply the body with fuel for physical activity and essential body functions, including synthesis of protein for tissue growth and repair. A certain amount of carbohydrate energy is stored in the muscles and liver as glycogen.
Glycogen is used by the muscles for immediate physical activity. You must eat carbohydrates regularly throughout the day to keep your glycogen levels optimal.
Excess carbohydrates not used for immediate energy or stored as glycogen, are converted to body fat. The body can burn its own fat for energy, but only at a rate of about 0.907kg. per week.
Severely limiting carbohydrate intake may cause the body to burn fat at a slightly greater rate, but muscle tissue will also be metabolised, resulting in a loss of muscle mass. Losing muscle ultimately makes it harder to lose body fat weight.