A lot has been said, written and talked about diet and healthy eating. But many still feel lost when it comes to striking the right balance, especially when the question is about protein and carbohydrates.
Each of these nutrients are important and both play a unique role in keeping you healthy. Since both have different and specific roles to play, we need to understand that a deficiency or excess of any one of these can alter the body’s homoeostasis and put you at a health risk if the right balance is not restored.
Let us first understand how these nutrients work.
Carbohydrates supply dietary fibre and energy, after breaking down the starches and sugar into a simpler form, called glucose. Carbohydrates are despised by many, especially the weight watchers and the simple reason behind it is the calories that they provide. However, we need to remember that unlike other body parts, our brain functions require fresh glucose to thrive. Since the brain cells do not favour the use of glucose synthesised from the stored body fat, it is important to maintain a good supply of carbohydrates to feed the brain.
Proteins, on the other hand, provide amino acids that are vital for replacing protein in cells, organs, tissues etc. They also help in muscle development, hence increasing the lean body mass.
When the intake of protein exceeds the actual requirements, the unused amino acids are further broken down and used to provide energy. Since our body can use amino acids as secondary energy sources, it is important to make sure that one has sufficient carbohydrates to allow the protein to carry out its intended function. This is also called as the ‘protein spearing’ action of carbohydrates.
When it comes to a diet for weight loss, you need to maintain a ‘negative calorie balance’ ie, the intake of calories should be less than what you burn. In this set-up, the body cannot distinguish between the calories provided by carbohydrates from those provided by proteins, thus your weight loss efforts may go to waste if you consume excessive proteins with a low carbohydrate diet as the body remains in a ‘positive calorie balance’.
When a person is able to strike the right balance between these two nutrients to facilitate weight loss, protein proves to be a long-lasting source of sustained energy. However, when this happens, ammonia is produced as a by-product. Extended breakdown of amino acids to yield energy thus increases the concentration of ammonia in muscles causing fatigue, putting extra load on the kidneys to eliminate the by-products of this conversion.
Following a diet plan that promises a balanced and sufficient intake of these nutrients is, therefore, important to keep you healthy and energised and to help you reach your ultimate diet goal.
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