How Our Body Uses Carbohydrates for Energy

Carbohydrates Function: How our body uses Carbs for Energy

Every Tuesday on my social media channels (Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest) I post what I call a Quick Tip Tuesday which is a Quick Tip to Improve your Health.

This week’s (May 26, 2020) Tuesday Tip was related to where the body gets its stored energy from and Carbohydrates Function. This is a topic which I believe deserves a more detailed explanation. The Quick Tip Tuesday stated the following:

“Did you know?

The body can get energy from two sources either:

Glucose (Carbs) or Fat

Energy from Glucose is stored in 2 places:

  1. The Liver (as Glycogen)
    1. Quick access
    1. Limited storage
  2. Body Fat
    1. Harder to use
    1. Unlimited storage

Try reducing Carbs/glucose intake in order to become fat adapted.

That way your body uses fat as its primary source of energy.

You will be surprised on how good you feel and how easily you will lose weight. “

Let’s break this down. All our food is composed of 3 macronutrients:

  1. Carbohydrates
  2. Protein
  3. Fat

The body can use two of these macronutrients for energy which are Carbohydrates and Fat. If you follow a Standard American Diet or Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Eating, then you are consuming a large number of carbohydrates and therefore your body will use Carbohydrates for Energy. Carbohydrates are easier for the body to use as energy however easier does not mean better.

How does your body use carbohydrates as energy?

When you eat carbohydrates, your body breaks it down the carbohydrates into sugar in the form of glucose. The sugar/glucose is then absorbed into the blood stream. This is why your blood sugar spikes after eating a carb heavy meal.

Every food you eat spikes your blood sugar level however certain macronutrients spike it more than others. Typically, carbohydrates cause the greatest spike in blood sugar followed by protein and fat causes a minimal to no blood sugar spike.

Blood sugar increase per macronutrient will vary depending on the food. Therefore, not all carbohydrates create the same blood sugar spike the degree of blood sugar spike is referred to glycemic index. A Cookie and white bread will have a higher glycemic index than a less refined carbohydrates such as whole grains, vegetables, fruits and beans.

Yup, vegetables, fruits and beans are considered carbohydrates. This is why a ketogenic diet which is a high fat, low carb diet restricts these foods as well. I won’t get too much into it, but I do recommend limiting beans and fruit as much as possible. However, I believe Vegetables are acceptable as they provide many beneficial nutrients and allow you to fill up on a large volume of food without the blood sugar spike since they have an extremely low glycemic index (in most cases).

How is the sugar/glucose from carbohydrates used as energy?

Okay so now that we know carbohydrates are broken down by the body into sugar let’s get to the next step. In order to use the sugar/glucose as energy the body needs the help of a hormone which is secreted by a gland called the pancreases.

The pancreas which is a gland secrete the hormone insulin. Insulin is used to transport the sugar/glucose into cells throughout the body so that it can be used immediately by the body as energy.

The First Energy Storage Area – The liver as glycogen

Once the cells are full of glucose for quick energy, the first storage area that is used to store away glucose for energy is in the liver in the form of glycogen.  

The glucose stored as glycogen can be quickly accessed if needed. Unfortunately, glucose storage in the liver as glycogen is limited. As a result, once glycogen is full the body needs to find another place to store the glucose.

The Second Energy Storage Area – Body Fat

Once the glycogen stores are full glucose is stored all over our body as body fat. The advantage here is that there is an unlimited amount of space on our body to store body fat. The disadvantage is that gaining access to the energy from body fat is extremely difficult.

There is a serious problem with the conventional wisdom that as long as Calories in (what you eat) – Calories outs (your daily exercise) is less than 2,000 calories for women or 2,500 calories for men you will lose weight.

Here are the issues with it:

Try reducing Carbs/glucose intake in order to become fat adapted.

There are sweet spots for carb intake depending on what goal you want to achieve:

In the process you should add good fats such as:

As you add fat to your meals and reduce carbs intake you will start to notice that:

As your carb intake stays low and fat intake increases your body will start to transition into using Fat as its fuel source. Afterall like was stated originally the body can get energy from carbs/glucose or fat.

You just need to get your body to flick the switch so that it can transition into using fat as its primary source of energy. This is also known as being fat adapted. Once fat adapted it will be easier to lose weight or maintain your weight.

I strongly encourage you to try it out for a couple of weeks.  You will be surprised on how good you feel and how easily you will lose weight.

If you would like some guidance and support with your weight-loss journey feel free to reach out to schedule a discovery call.