Carbohydrates Part 1: Our Energy Source

Many of us have heard the term micronutrients, which are more commonly referred to as vitamins and minerals. They are required in trace amounts for the body to function normally. While most of us are familiar with the "big three" we may not have heard them referred to as macronutrients. The three macronutrients are proteins, carbohydrates, and fats.  In this article we are examining carbohydrates.  

Carbohydrate Facts

Carbohydrates are organic compounds and are commonly categorized as sugars (simple), starches (complex), and fiber. Carbohydrates are primarily used by our bodies for energy. 

While proteins and fats are used to build tissue and other bodily functions, carbohydrates are primarily used for energy. If they are not used initially as energy in the body, then they are stored. First, a small amount of carbohydrates are stored as glycogen, and glycogen is stored in the liver and muscles. It is stored in a state that is readily accessible for use. When exercising, it is glycogen that is used first for energy. While a small amount of our excess carbohydrate consumption is stored as glycogen, the rest is stored as fat. Carbohydrates have a unique fact: proteins and fats are essential for the body to live, but we can live without carbohydrates.


Two kinds of carbohydrates: 

Simple Carbs

Simple carbohydrates are simple sugars. Most food that taste sweet contains a combination of glucose and fructose, which are the two main sugars we consume.  A monosaccharide is a single simple sugar unit and includes glucose (blood sugar), fructose (fruit sugar) and galactose (milk sugar). Disaccharides are combinations of two monosaccharides that include sucrose (table sugar), lactose (milk sugar), and maltose (malt sugar).

These are refined sugars that have almost no nutritional value and are digested very quickly. We should only consume these in small amounts. Some examples of simple sugars are: table sugar, corn syrup, and fruit juice, among many others. 

Complex Carbs

Complex carbohydrates are complex in that they are made up of a chain of three or more sugars. Many complex carbohydrates are rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals. As complex carbohydrates take longer to digest, they are better for our consumption. The vast majority of carbohydrates we consume should be complex. Some examples of complex carbohydrates are certain vegetables, fruits, beans and grains like spinach, zucchini, cabbage, celery, apples, pears, plums, potatoes, lentils, kidney beans, pinto beans, lima beans, buckwheat, barley, oats and others. 

Fiber is organically the structure in leaves, stems and roots of plants. Fiber is the indigestible part of plants and plant foods that travel through our digestive system. Fiber has no effect on blood sugar and at the end of our digestive system binds with waste to escort it out of the body.

The difference as to what is healthy and not healthy is determined by where the sugar comes from, or the sugar's source.  Complex carbohydrates come from plant-based foods and these are loaded with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber.  Those products with simple sugars are typically man-made, and they are “empty calories”, meaning that we don’t get any additional nutrients when we eat products with these types of sugars and mostly the calories are stored as fat. 

One Last Carb Thought

The closer you get to nature the better the carbohydrate is for you. Or to say it another way, the more humans handle food and work with it, the less healthy it is for you. The simple carbohydrates mentioned above are made by people while the things produced in nature are better for human consumption.  


Fats: Energy & Activator Source

Facts about Fats

Fats have been given a bad reputation over the last few decades, especially as many low fat or non-fat diets have risen and fallen in prominence.  One health and fitness researcher, Jonathan Bailor states, “Natural foods contain fats. Natural foods were the only thing our ancestors ate for 99.8% of our history… how could they harm us?”  The reality is that some fats are good while others are not so good; our Fit.Church goal is to help you make the best choices available. 

3 Reasons Fat Is Important

1. Fat is foundational:

fats help slow digestion which aids the stabilization of our blood sugar and even helps our body burn the fat we have stored. Fat is also a part of our basic cell structure and is essential for the body, especially for our brain, to function. 

2. Fat allows vitamin absorption:

many vitamins are fat soluble which means to absorb needed micronutrients like vitamins A, D, E, and K, our body has to have dietary fats. Without fat, the vitamins are not absorbed into our system, and just pass through.  Without fat to aid digestion we would not be able to live.

3. Fat supports our hormonal system.

Healthy fats are converted into various substances and chemicals the body needs. Some of these chemicals are what we call hormones that are chemical messengers in our body.   


3 Kinds of fats

1. Unsaturated Fats

Unsaturated fats come in two forms: poly-unsaturated and mono-unsaturated. While we won’t go into the details of what makes each different, suffice it say that the answer has to do with the chemistry behind the cells. Unsaturated fats are the good kinds of fats. They help satiate our appetite, reduce bad cholesterol and even help the body burn stored fat.   

Omega-3 Fatty Acids are an example of great polyunsaturated fats that help contribute to better brain function, protect against heart disease and help fight inflammation within the body. 

Some examples of unsaturated fats are: nuts, olives, avocados, and olive or canola oils. Sources of Omega-3 Fatty Acids are: salmon (wild caught preferably), sturgeon, bluefish, herring, mackerel, lake trout, and tuna. When eating fish, be sure to be conscious of your mercury intake, which is higher in deep-water fish like swordfish or mackerel.  Many dietitians encourage eating deep-water fish only once a week to minimize mercury in your body system.

2. Saturated Fats

Saturated fats are a complicated topic. Research has been conducted to address the tug-of-war over the question: are saturated fats good for you or bad for you? The answer is that it is complicated. Saturated fats include butter, milk, cheese, dairy, and animal fats. These fats are solid at room temperature and they melt when heated (such as in cooking). They are worth our attention, but we should be careful how much saturated fat we eat. The American Heart Association recommends limiting saturated fat intake to 13 grams or less a day. 

3. Trans-Fats

Trans fats get their name because they have been chemically transformed from polyunsaturated fats to solid fats using a hydrogen process.  These fats are completely man-made and are introduced into foods to stabilize the flavor or texture as well as extend shelf life. Any packaged product in a store that has a “hydrogenated” or “partially-hydrogenated” ingredient has trans fats and should be avoided.  

Through many studies, trans fats have been connected to the highest risk to the heart as well as being a prime culprit for weight gain. Be wary: any food with less than .5 grams of trans fats in a single serving can claim to be “trans fat free” so reading the label is an absolute necessity to avoid these fats. Examples of trans fats are margarine and shortening, and are included in fast foods, fried foods, and many store bought pastries.  


How Much Fat Should we Eat?

Fit.Church encourages allocating 25% of your daily calories for fats, and aiming for the majority to be unsaturated fats. For someone on an 1800-calorie weight loss plan, 25% would be about 50 grams of fats a day. For someone on a 1400-calorie weight loss plan, 25% would be about 39 grams.      

Protein: An Essential Building Block

An Essential Building Block

Protein is essential in building the human body. One significant difference between protein, carbohydrates and fats is that the body stores fats and carbohydrates but does not store protein.  

A key building block in our bodies, protein is the second greatest portion of our body weight besides water. Protein is an essential element in every cell of the human body.  It is a vital building block in bones, muscles, skin, and blood.  Not only are hair and nails protein, but even enzymes, hormones, and antibodies are made from protein.  

Why is protein important to weight loss and maintenance? 

A large block of scientific research indicates that increased protein levels are ideal for weight loss. One Danish study of 65 participants demonstrated that high protein meal plans are more effective than low protein meal plans in losing weight.

This idea of eating a higher amount of protein is in contrast to FDA recommendations. One nutritionist, Byron J. Richards, has written, “attempting to follow the FDA guidelines is a fast track to obesity…” He writes that the single most important factor that influences our metabolic rate is quality protein, which aids weight loss.

Protein helps us to maintain our muscle mass during weight loss as well as promote our immune system and overall fitness. Protein is critical to decreasing hunger and increases our sense of satisfaction, which reduces overeating and increases weight loss. It helps to stabilize our blood sugar levels and supports adrenal and thyroid function. Consuming a carbohydrate controlled, low fat, but high protein diet will assist in weight loss.  

How much protein Needs to be in our diet? 

One of the things we have learned is that our bodies are not banks but chemistry sets. What do we mean? Each human being is not a carbon copy: we are unique.  Many weight-loss programs use a model of a bank with a calories-in and calories-out plan to weight loss. But rather than being a bank, human beings are more like a chemistry set which means that what we need to operate efficiently is determined by metabolic rates, our height, weight, lean muscle mass, and age, among other factors.  

We are not “cookie cutter” human beings [as is stated in the Fit.Church Eating Plan.]  Each person's protein intake will need to be determined as they make their health journey.  We advocate a high protein, low carbohydrate meal plan.  

The FDA states that adults need roughly 200 calories of protein a day, which would be about 50 grams. If based on a 2000 calorie a day diet, 10% of your calorie intake would be protein. The Fit.Church plan calls for 35% protein intake. For someone on an 1800 calorie weight loss plan, 35% would be about 160 grams of protein a day. For someone on a 1400 calorie weight loss plan, 35% would be about 125 grams.   

The one warning mentioned most often on this topic is that overeating protein can damage the kidneys.  Most studies that validate this concern have been completed on people who have chronic kidney issues. For people with cancer, kidney disease, and other chronic illnesses, protein intake can be a concern. For healthy people who desire to lose weight an increased protein, lower carbohydrate, and healthy fat meal plan is the best recipe for long-term weight loss and maintenance success.        

The nutrition facts about protein

Protein is present in every cell of the human body. Essentially, proteins are made up of long links of amino acids. There are 22 different types of amino acid and the body needs all of them to function properly. These 22 types of amino acids are divided in two groups: essential and non-essential amino acids.

Of the 22 amino acids, 13 are non-essential. They are called non-essential because they can be manufactured by the body and do not have to be derived from food. In contrast, the 9 essential amino acids cannot be produced by the body and are only obtained from the food we consume. One important clarification is that both essential and non-essential amino acids are vitally important to the human body. One without the other would mean that new proteins needed by the body would not be formed.

There are some foods that contain all of the 9 essential amino acids. These foods are called complete proteins and tend to come from animal sources such as meat, dairy products, eggs, seafood, poultry, and the grain, quinoa. For some time, there was the belief that vegetarians had to figure out how to mix and match their diet to make sure they get what is needed, that has been proven to be a myth. A healthy vegetarian diet with a mixture of good vegetables, legumes, and grains like quinoa can provide everything someone needs to be healthy.

We must remember that while our body can store carbohydrates and fat, our body does not store protein. A daily intake of protein is both helpful and healthy to make sure we can support a healthy physiology.  About half our daily intake of protein we consume daily is used to produce enzymes which are specialized worker proteins for specific tasks in our body like digestion, molecule production, creation of chemical substances.  It is interesting to realize that our ability to hear, think and move requires nerve cells to communicate back and forth to each other and to other specialized cells. Sending these messages requires chemicals called neurotransmitters. Making these transmitters requires protein.            

The Research Department of Human Nutrition, “Randomized trial on protein vs. carbohydrate in ad libitum fat reduced diet for the treatment of obesity.” The Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University; Copenhagen, Denmark; 1999. Abstract online at 

Byron J. Richards, Board Certified Clinical Nutritionist; “How Protein Helps Weight Loss”. Article under the ‘News & Views’ on, Copyright Wellness Resources, Inc., originally published 12/15/08.