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Can We Stop Demonising Carbs? PART 1.

By Jane Wake MSc


Carbs have been a hot topic of conversation for some time and it's become even more so as Glucose Monitoring hits an all time high. I cannot scroll through social media or listen/read a podcast or newspaper without encountering Glucose Monitoring or CGM (Continuous Glucose Monitoring) brands, all vying for our custom.


The 'Glucose Goddess' is a social media influencer with 3.7M followers and her post move from, supposedly science led, infographics, to propaganda style imaging. Her videos remind me of a Post War, Stepford Wives type setting! I find her slightly alluring yet scary, not to mention the fact that she spouts some ridiculous claims, including persuading us to buy into her 'Anti-spike' pills.


My question on all this is, When did we ever get to the point that we needed to become so heightened to glucose monitoring?



Has it all gone Glucose Mad?


There as been a huge rise in Type 2 Diabetes in this country. diabetes.org estimate that there are nearly 5 million people in the UK currently living with Type 2 Diabetes. I have written about this before in my post "Sugar and Spice & all things Vice' . This is a shocking statistic and reflective of so many things but perhaps not connected to the rise in Glucose monitoring. Because, unless you have a big bit of cash to spare, most people, particularly those most vulnerable to Type II Diabetes, could never afford it.  And whilst CGM and other forms of monitoring are available on the NHS, this is predominantly for Type I diabetes and rarely for Type II. If you look at who is really suffering - it's largely those on lower incomes who don't have access to the right food and education - I was appalled that my youngest, who had to take the three combined sciences at school was forced to drop Food Science. Surely a science that teaches you how to look after yourself and future proof your health is the most important science of all?


I'm not even that bothered as to whether CGM monitoring is really good or not, or even whether the Glucose Goddess with her spurious claims is doing more harm than good. What I'm bothered about is whether obsessions like this lead us down paths that perpetuate a society so completely out of step with itself?


We only have to ask ourselves - why is glucose monitoring necessary in the first place? A genuine health concern? A way to get results quickly? Or perhaps because we are searching for answers and because we've been told others have these answers - They are the experts, they know best?


How could I possibly know more about me?!


I have a confession to make - I love carbs! Always have done. One of the reasons for this is because I have always been a big exerciser. My body craves them. Is there anything in that? You bet there is!


I am not a nutritionist and I will always direct you to more in-depth information on nutrition to some of my wonderful dietetic colleagues who really know their stuff. Nicola Scheilfer is one such dietician who has clinical experience in diabetes. Her work & research over a 20 year career makes her one of the best. Nicola has done a short workshop for me on Protein and Carbs which you can access here. And if you think you need some real help on this, I'd urge you to get in contact with her (link on her name above) She has some incredible programmes you can join.


But as Nicola says time and time again when we work together, your intuition on your eating is paramount and any monitoring you do, whether heart rate, glucose or weight management, should always be valued in context. Your individual make up should always ultimately dictate YOU.


You do need to know the facts and Nicola lays many of them out in her workshop. Carbs are not all made the same! One area in which I do feel I have the authority to speak more out on is in relation to exercise. Carbohydrates are your most readily available and preferred fuel source for movement and, whilst we could have a big debate here on topics from fasting to fat burning, these are all just fluff when it comes to your movement. Considering carbohydrate however is vital.


Your body needs a supply of carbohydrate stored in the muscles, in order to perform. This storage, called glycogen, is finite. It can only power you for short burst - but also why it's essential for higher intensity movement and a key part in all movement. The fitter you are, the greater capacity you have to store and the harder and longer you can go for in higher intense movements. This is essential also for strength training and, whilst I talk a lot about the need for protein, carbohydrate and your glycogen stores are literally what power you to perform and therefore equally as important.


We also need carbohydrate as a fuel for lower intensity movements, And no, lower intensity exercise is not all about fat burning - you still need carbs. Whilst how we all respond to carbs will vary slightly, especially men to women, we all need carbs to fuel our workouts. If you don't eat them your workouts can become lack lustre. Even those quick release sugars have an important place, particularly when you go into doing longer duration cardio. It is however so nuanced and this is where you have to listen to your body and you really don't need a glucose monitor for this! If you are doing anything over 40 mins - watch how you feel as you hit that 40 plus mark - do you feel exhausted, light headed, can't carry on? You need more carbs! And if you are currently training for a marathon, you really do need to experiment with different carb sources and timings of when you eat to see what works best for you.


So let's not demonise carbs, they are essential for living. We don't need to avoid them, just consider when, what and how we need them. Your body is amazing! And knows you best so listen in!


I'd love to know what you think! Do comment and if you have gone down the CGM route - I'd love to know if it has worked for you.


I haven't written a blog post for a while so your getting a double whammy this weekend - look out for PART 2 which is my power charged pre-workout recipe for savoury porridge! Not convinced by the idea of savoury porridge? Hopefully by the time you've read it, you will be! Jane x


Jane Wake is a health and fitness leader with 35 years experience specialising in women's health. She has a Master of Science degree in Sports Management. Her research focused on the sociological implications of exercise provision for women.



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4 Comments


Hi Jane - that was SO helpful - I've been trying to loose weight as you know - and assumed I had enough protein in my diet - which I've really monitored this week - to do the weight training program part 1 and 2 you suggested last week - by the end of the week I was dizzy and felt dreadful - and I rushed out to buy a pizza - listening to my body - carbs please it was shouting ! I"m now going to incorporate carbs this week - and I'm sure my performance will increase - thanks so much for such an informative blog - I really am ignorant on what i should and shouldn't eat!

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wakeyjane
wakeyjane
Mar 24
Replying to

Ahh glad it was useful Rose. Timing your carbs/meals around your workouts is essential. You need some before to fuel and some after to replenish stores. Fruits & veg are carbs but probably not enough to fuel your workouts. So add some lovely whole grains with a meal - doesn't have to be loads, you will need to experiment with how much you need. And also for meal after. If you are not moving much in a day, you won't need them so much. And you don't need them late at night. I had pizza yesterday too! One thing we should never do is think one meal will affect us negatively. It's telling us to listen in and be m…

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Really interesting Jane. I'm looking forward to part 2!

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wakeyjane
wakeyjane
Mar 24
Replying to

Glad you found it interesting Sarah! Xx

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