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Carbohydrates - The Power of the Roman Gladiator


The power of the Roman Gladiator

The Roman Warriors and Gladiators were lean and mean, with the strength and endurance to overcome their obstacles and opponents.  The Roman fighters were known as the “Barley Men”, and they shared a diet similar to other groups of world conquerors such as Genghis Khan, Alexandre the Great, the Spartans and the Sikh Warriors.  Through scientific studies and historical records, it has been concluded that the diet of these great fighters consisted mostly of carbohydrates.

At this point, many of you are probably thinking that carbohydrates are bad for you and make you fat.  The marketing of diet fads such as the Ketogenic, Paleo, Atkins, and other high protein diets is very powerful and leads you to believe that carbohydrates will make you fat and sick. Other civilizations such as the Mayans, Aztecs, and many of our Paleolithic ancestors were mainly vegetarian as well.  We know that our Paleolithic ancestors were vegetarian though the study of coprolites, also known as fossilized feces.  Yes, scientists have actually found and studied fossilized paleo poop. 

Why carbohydrates are important in your diet?

Not all carbohydrates are healthy, so it is important to understand the differences.  There are three basic types of carbohydrates: sugars, resistant starches and fiber.  All plant foods contain carbohydrates, but dairy products are the only animal products that contain carbohydrates.  The difference between an unhealthy carbohydrate such as processed white bread or refined sugar, and a healthy carbohydrate such as oatmeal or potato is the amount the amount of resistant starch and fiber.  Oats are one of the healthiest foods on the planet, yet they are carbohydrate rich being comprised of roughly 57 percent starch and 10 percent fiber by weight for uncooked oats.

Just like a vehicle can’t run without gasoline or an alternative energy source, our bodies require energy to function.  Our bodies get energy from a carbohydrate called glucose, but more importantly our brain requires glucose for energy and the proper functioning.  Without enough glucose getting to our brain, we can suffer consequences like attention problems and depression to more serious issues like impaired movement and motor skills.

If you eat excess carbohydrates, your body initially stores the glucose in the form of glycogen in your liver and muscles for quick access when you need energy.  When your glycogen stores are at capacity, any excess glucose is converted to triglycerides and stored as fat in your body.  If the carbohydrates consumed contain fiber and resistant starch, the conversion to glucose is much slower and your body can manage the glucose levels much better.

If you don’t eat enough carbohydrates to satisfy your body’s energy needs, your body automatically increases the level of ketones which will allow the liver to create glucose from the energy stored as fat.   This is the main principle behind the ketogenic diet fad.  A ketogenic diet can help you lose weight quickly, but it isn’t healthy over the long run.  Unfortunately, this process puts a heavy strain on your liver and kidneys.

The key to carbohydrates in your diet

In 2010, a potato farmer named Chris Voigt went on a 60 day diet consuming 2,200 calories per day from only potatoes.  He lost 21 pounds and lowered his cholesterol by 67 points.  This is not a recommended diet, but his health benefited and he did not gain weight from eating only carbohydrates.

Eating whole foods, the ones that grow out of the ground, will provide all of the energy and protein your body needs for optimum health.  The term “low carbohydrate diet” should be defined as a “no processed food diet” because the carbohydrates found in processed foods are the ones that can lead to health complications since they contain little or no fiber and resistant starches. 

Before choosing to go on a low carbohydrate diet, make sure to contact a knowledgeable and well trained nutritionist or dietician, and always consult your physician for advice on the potential consequences.

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