Carbs are your friend, not your enemy as many people believe.

Author: Ciara Nolan (RNutr)

Ciara is our in-house nutritionist at FITT Meals & has a MSc Human Nutrition.

What is Carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates are one of the 3 macronutrients alongside Protein & Fat. They are essential and  needed for energy. We need carbohydrates for everything from using our brains for thinking to running and exercising. 

Did you know the brain needs 140g of carbohydrates everyday to function?

Carbohydrates have 4 calories per gram (the same as protein).
Despite carbohydrates receiving bad press over the years they are vital and needed everyday. They should not be removed from the diet. (This goes across the board – never cut out a food group unless you are allergic. Cutting out food groups is dangerous and can lead to ill health).
It is recommended that 45-65% of your total daily calories should come from carbohydrates. Not eating enough carbohydrates will leave you feeling tired, sluggish, moody and with possible nutrient deficiencies. 


-Main source of energy – Carbohydrates are broken down into glucose and used for energy
-Needed for proper functioning of the central nervous system
-Needed for optimal health of the kidneys, brain, intestinal health & other organs.

Other Benefits of Carbohydrates:

-They preserve protein –  As carbohydrates are the body’s preferred source of energy, they prevent the body from breaking down protein from our muscles for energy.
-They help you meet your fibre requirements – complex carbohydrates tend to be high in fibre. This in turn helps to keep the gut healthy and maintain blood sugar levels. 
– They are required for calorie and normal fat metabolism – this means that carbohydrates aid the breakdown of these within our body.

Carbohydrates Sources include:

-Starchy vegetables (potatoes, peas, corn)
-Wholegrains (bread, rice, pasta, quinoa, cereals)
-Pulses (beans, chickpeas and lentils)
Carbohydrates can come from other food sources.


Now for the science bit…
Carbohydrates can be classified as monosaccharides, disaccharides or polysaccharides. These strange looking words basically refer to how many “sugar units” (or saccharides) the molecule contains. 
Monosaccharides are the simplest form. Glucose is a monosaccharide.
Disaccharides are when two monosaccharides link together. For example, sucrose is made of glucose and fructose. 
Polysaccharides are when many monosaccharides join together.

Simple & Complex Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates come in 2 forms: Simple & Complex.
Simple Carbohydrates are monosaccharides. These are broken down quickly in the body. This means they provide us with a quick burst of energy fast. Simple carbohydrate examples are sugary foods such as sweets, doughnuts, soft drinks, honey etc. These types of carbohydrates do not keep us feeling full for long.
Complex carbohydrates are polysaccharides. These take longer to be broken down and therefore keep us feeling fuller for longer. They also provide us with energy over a longer period of time. Examples of complex carbohydrates are wholegrains such as brown rice, brown pasta and brown bread. Vegetables, legumes, beans and oats are also sources of complex carbohydrates.
Eating adequate amounts of carbohydrates is very important before exercising to ensure that you have enough energy to fuel a session and after to replenish muscle stores. Depending on the length of the session it also may be required during exercise. See, they really are important.
The amount of carbohydrates needed for exercise is totally person/activity dependent so an individual approach needs to be taken.

Let’s take a look at the carbohydrate content of some of our meals here at FITT Meals:

  • Asian Beef Stir Fry: 62g
  • Beef Ragu Cheese Pasta: 53g
  • Beef Stir Fry Noodles: 63g
  • Chicken Carbonara: 50g
  • Fish Curry: 68g
*Numbers are based on our lean portion size. At the time of writing this information is correct, however it is possible that it may change in the future. 
Beef Ragu Cheese Pasta

About the Author

Ciara Nolan (RNutr)

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