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Carbs play a key role, so don't cut them all out

If you are starting off the new year with good intentions, making exercise a part of your life, it would be a good idea to remind yourself of the important role that carbohydrates play in supporting that activity. Every cell in our body uses carbohydrates for energy.

It seems many people tend to equate carbohydrates with weight gain and try to avoid them like the plague. Studies tell us that fatigue and a decrease in performance are associated with low-carbohydrate diets. When it comes to exercising, carbohydrates are considered to be the most efficient source of energy of all the nutrients.

When the body does not receive adequate carbohydrates, it is forced to get fuel for exercising from protein, which can be broken down to create glucose to produce energy. However, the main role of protein is not to supply fuel for energy, but to build and repair muscles. Protein and amino acids are known as the building blocks of muscle. When protein is forced into helping supply fuel, its ability to build and repair muscles that are broken down while exercising is reduced.

Simple versus complex

Carbs have gotten a bad rap for a very long time. You will even hear them referred to as "the bad carbs." It is true that all carbohydrates are not created equal.

Simple carbs, which are quick to digest, are basically sugars with very little fiber, very little nutritional value and a lot of calories, which puts them on the "limited eating" list. They include table sugar, corn syrup, candy, fruit juices, bread and pasta made with white four, all baked goods made with white flour, most packaged cereals and soda.

Complex carbs are "the good guys." They have the nutrients our bodies need, and because they are high in fiber and digest slowly, they are more filling, which helps with weight control. They include less-processed grains such as whole wheat pasta and quinoa, brown rice, oatmeal and beans. Fiber-rich fruits such as berries, apples and bananas also are considered complex carbs, as are fiber-rich vegetables such as broccoli, carrots and leafy greens.

Check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program. Sally Anderson is happy to hear from readers but can't respond to individual inquiries. Contact her at

Skater: This cardio movement involves the whole body.

Lean slightly forward from the hips, keeping your back flat. With your abdominals contracted, step or leap to the right with your left foot crossed behind you in the air, swinging your left arm in front of you while your right arm swings to the back. Immediately step or leap to the left side with opposite arm movements. Continue alternating sides for 30 seconds, building up to a minute. Rest and repeat.

Side bridge with leg lift: This strengthens the core and outer thighs and promotes shoulder stability. It also helps to strengthen the muscles that stabilize your pelvis, which help prevent you from falling when you trip.

Lying on your right side with your elbow in alignment with your shoulder, place your left leg on top of your right leg. Lift your hips and torso, balancing on your forearm and foot. Your body should be in a straight line from head to toe. Lift the top leg about 45 degrees and hold for several seconds. Slowly lower your leg, hips and torso, repeating the lifting-and-lowering regimen eight to 12 times before changing sides and repeating the pattern. To modify, perform the exercise with your bottom leg bent.

Standing oblique crunch with leg lift: This balance exercise targets the obliques and thighs.

Standing tall with your hands behind your ears, contract your abdominals. Lift one leg to the side, about a foot off the floor, as you bend your upper body to the same side. Hold for a few seconds and return to the original position, repeating eight to 10 times before switching to the opposite side and repeating eight to 10 times. If you need help with balance, hold one hand on a chair for support.

Tip: Avoid rotating your hips.

To modify, instead of lifting your leg off the floor, extend your leg to the side, tapping toes on floor.

Carbs play a key role, so don't cut them all out 01/23/17 [Last modified: Monday, January 23, 2017 12:31pm]
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