Low carb? High carb? No carb?! With so much noise around this controversial macro, it’s no surprise that many of us are pretty confused about how much of it we’re actually supposed to be eating. Then there’s the big ‘impact carbs vs. non-impact carbs’ debate – but which are really better and what’s the difference between the two?
We caught up with Team Grenade® athlete Vinny Russo to find out his thoughts on the two and to get the full lowdown on why carbs are a vital part of our diet.
There has been a lot of confusion lately on the difference between impact carbs and non-impact carbs. Here, I will shed some light on what each carb means, as well as how to utilise them to keep your healthy lifestyle in check!
Before we dive into the differences, it’s important to understand what carbohydrates actually are.
What are carbohydrates?
Everyone, including myself, has been subjected to the idea that carbohydrates are evil and will slap on the body fat. This can be true, but it all depends on when you consume your carbohydrates and which type of carbohydrates you choose to consume. Carbs can be broken down into two categories: simple carbohydrates, which are your monosaccharaides and disaccharides, and complex carbohydrates which are your polysaccharides, glycogen and fibre. Carbohydrates are the most common source of energy found in food. Let’s take a look at some science before we go into how to eat your carbohydrates.
All carbohydrates form glucose, which is the fundamental fuel for all of the body’s functions. Glucose is transported by means of blood and taken into cells to be converted into energy. Insulin, produced by the pancreas gland, plays an important task as it controls the uptake of glucose by your cells. After replenishing through insulin, if you have any surplus glucose, it will be converted into glycogen. When glucose is converted into glycogen, it’s stored in the liver, muscle tissue or if your glycogen stores are FULL, then in the form of fat around the body.
If your glycogen storage areas are full in the liver and muscle cells, then the excess glucose taken in will be stored as fat for your body to use as energy at a later date. Think of this in terms of a cup of water – every time you consume carbs, the cup fills up more and more. When you reach the spill over point, that excess water pouring over the rim of the cup will be the glucose that will be stored as fat. This is where control, willpower, and moderation are key!
It is important to understand that the slower the release of glucose and hormones, the more stable and sustainable the energy levels of the body. Now that you have a general understanding of what carbs are and how they affect particular hormones in the body, let’s look at non-impact carbs vs. impact carbs.
What are non-impact carbs?
Non-impact carbs are the carbs that have minimal effect on your blood sugar levels after they have been digested. These carbs are considered the “chosen-ones” since they are allowed in most low-carb diets. These carbs are effective at maintaining stable insulin levels throughout the day. We all know by now that if we can control our insulin, we can control the amount of fat being stored! These carbs also allow people to follow through with their diet plans. Sometimes you may want some white rice but substituting blended raw cauliflower as a rice substitute will not only avoid the insulin spikes and the caloric intake, but it will give you a sense of satisfaction.
The examples that spring to mind when talking about non-impact carbs include fibre (being the main one) and sugar alcohols. Fibre is found in veggies, whole grains and fruit. The amount of fibre in these food sources is one of the main reasons they are considered healthy! Fibre is indigestible, as our bodies lack the enzymes needed to break it down and obtain the calories. Instead, fibre will bind to molecules and help move digested food through your body. Fibre can be broken down into two categories: soluble and insoluble. The benefits of soluble fibre is that the ingestion of this type of non-impact carb will lower blood cholesterol by binding to bile acids and removing them from the body (bile acids are needed to make cholesterol).
As for insoluble fibre, these help the body absorb and remove toxins, as well as contributing to healthy functioning of digestion. Sugar alcohols are known under the names sorbitol, maltitol, erythritol, xylitol, mannitol, and glycerol. These are actually digested by the body but will have minimal effect on your blood sugar levels. You will see that in many sugar free gums, one slice of gum will contain 2g of sugar alcohols.
What are impact-carbs?
Impact or effective carbs are the exact opposite of non-impact carbs due to the fact that they have a significant effect on your blood sugar levels. Your body breaks down impact carbohydrates for glucose, the substance that gives your cells energy. While carbohydrates often get a bad reputation because of the popularity of low-carbohydrate diets, they are the body’s chief source of energy in your diet. Impact carbohydrates are not bad for you, but they should be consumed in moderation.
Under many diets, restrictions are put on the amount of Impact carbs one can consume to keep the blood sugar under control. Impact carbs are divided into the two main categories, as stated earlier: simple and complex. Simple carbs or monosaccharaides/disaccharides are most likely to be consumed in processed foods that have been sweetened with added sugars like white, granulated table sugar (sucrose). This table sugar is one of the primary disaccharides by combining a molecule of glucose with a molecule of fructose. Other primary disaccharides include milk sugar (lactose) which combines a molecule of glucose with a molecule of galactose, and malt sugar (maltose) which combines two molecules of glucose. Like monosaccharides, disaccharides don’t ordinarily become a problem in the diet until they are consumed in excess.
When consumed, these monosaccharides (disaccharides when thrown together) provide you with a quick burst of energy. The simpler the carbohydrate, the faster the glucose is released into your blood. This can cause peaks and drops in your blood sugar level and less stable energy levels in the body. Although these simple carbohydrates have a bad reputation, there are certain times of the day where it is important to consume them.
Complex carbohydrates provide a slower and more sustained release of energy than simple carbohydrates. In their natural form, they contribute to long-term good health, appetite control, and sustained energy levels. Complex carbohydrates also provide a great deal of calories with a great deal of nutrient value. When compared to complex carbohydrates, simple carbohydrates give you a quick rise and fall in your energy levels and have a great deal of calories with little to no nutrient value.
How do I work out my NET carb count?
When talking about NET Carbs, this is based on the principle that not all carbs affect the body in the same manner. The NET carb count is essentially the same as the amount of impact carbs per food item. Take the total amount of carbs and subtract the amount of non-impact carbs (fibre/sugar alcohols) to find your net carb count. It’s the amount of carbs left over after you subtract everything else.
For example, if a food contains 40g of carbs and 5 of those carbs are fibre, then the net carb count would be equal to 35g of carbs. When looking at Grenade®’s Carb Killa® Caramel Chaos bar, 1 60g bar provides 1.5g of impact carbs after subtracting the sugar alcohols and the fibre content! This is a perfect item to throw into your low carb diet arsenal.
Carbs can be confusing right? But, we hope that’s cleared things up for you! If you’re looking for more nutritional information and tips, head over to our blog. You can also follow Vinny over on Instagram for more fitness and nutritional advice.