Many people advocate low-carb diets as the healthiest way to approach nutrition. They use various studies and logical deductions to conclude carbohydrates, one of only three macronutrients, are bad for us.
But are they really?
What are carbohydrates?
Many people mistake carbohydrates with sugar.
The difference is very similar to the one of amino acids and protein. Namely, sugars are the building blocks of carbohydrates.
All carbohydrates consist of one or more of the three simple sugars (monosaccharides): glucose, fructose, and galactose.
During digestion, all carbohydrates are broken down into these three monosaccharides. Of the three, glucose is the body's preferred source of energy, as only this monosaccharide can be used by most body cells.
Once broken down, these carbohydrates or simple sugars need to be transported into the bloodstream.
This is the task of special transporters, i.e. enzyme proteins, which transport simple sugars through the body.
There are countless transporters, but glucose and fructose are mainly transported from the small intestine into the blood stream by the transporters SGLT1 and GLUT5 respectively.
Two is better than one
Glucose and galactose use the same transporter (SGLT1), while fructose uses a different one (GLUT5).
If we saturate one transporter, we can still use the other one. Hence, evidence clearly shows that composite carbohydrates are more efficient than only one type of monosaccharide in enabling a higher absorption of carbohydrates.
The logic is simple: two roads are better than one!
The optimal ratio
Most products that provide both glucose and fructose use the 2:1 ratio.
This ratio is based on past research in which it was established that up to 60 grams of glucose ingested during exercise can be utilized per hour. Half the amount of fructose (30 grams) was added and it was discovered that the utilization of carbohydrates was improved.
It was years later that Prof. David Rowlands and his team tested the various ratios (2:1, 1:0.8, 1:1.25) and came to the conclusion that the best ratio in regard to gastrointestinal comfort and carbohydrate absorption is the 1:0.8 ratio, which is the ratio we use in our products.
Nrgy Unit Drink contains the optimal 1:0.8 ratio of maltodextrin and fructose.
Issues with fructose?
Some brands are afraid to use fructose because it is supposedly bad for our health.
While an excessive intake of fructose is linked to many issues, such as obesity and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, it seems this applies more to an unhealthy lifestyle and unhealthy sources of fructose, such as sugar-sweetened beverages and highly-processed foods, rather than fructose itself.
This leads to the conclusion that for active people fructose has no negative impacts on their health, and it can even assist them, as it replenishes liver glycogen stores more quickly and provides more energy due to a faster uptake.
Healthy and efficient source of fructose.
Glycogen is stored in our muscles and the liver.
Any cell can utilize glucose, but before fructose can be utilized, it needs to go to the liver where it is converted into glycogen to replenish glycogen stores and/or glucose to be used in the muscles.
Because fructose can only be converted by the liver, it is the most efficient monosaccharide for replenishment of liver glycogen stores.
A combination of glucose and fructose is therefore optimal to replenish both the muscle and the liver glycogen stores.
The 1:0.8 carbohydrate ratio reflects that fact and is used in all of our products.
Our main source of glucose is maltodextrin, a polysaccharide formed of multiple glucose molecules which behaves just like glucose but is less sweet.
There is no substitute for fructose, and since fructose is very sweet, our products do not require any artificial sweeteners to have an excellent taste.
So, are carbohydrates bad?
The short answer is simple. No.
The long answer is a little more complicated. Just like with everything, excessive consumption of carbohydrates, especially processed sugars, can lead to many undesired side-effects, such as obesity and diabetes.
For this reason, many people believe carbohydrates are bad and sugars are evil, which, in our opinion, is a potentially very dangerous train of thought.
We keep pointing out the importance of keeping our glycogen stores full in order to improve health, well-being, recovery, and performance and decrease occurrence of stress, illness, and injury.
Glucose is the body's preferred source of fuel, and forcing the body to use other macronutrients is simply inefficient, to say the least.
Our advice: maintain a healthy diet and active lifestyle, and keep replenishing your glycogen stores!