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Hidden Carbs - What Are They?


Well, either way, now you want to know, "What's a Hidden Carb" and who's hiding them? First a quick background check...

For quite a while, certain food ingredients which were not thought to affect blood glucose were allowed to be omitted from the carbohydrate count on food labels. The most notable of these were glycerin and maltitol (a sugar alcohol). Glycerin is found mostly in "low carb" or "protein" bars - used as a filler to get the texture right. Maltitol is used as a sweetener in "sugar free" products, especially in "sugar free" or "low carb" chocolate.

For a long time, veteran low carbers were noticing that for some people, sometimes, food containing these ingredients seemed to be stalling weight loss. And they sometimes brought back the old carb cravings. Could the labels be lying? Maybe there were carbs hidden in these foods somewhere?

And lo and behold, when they did a little math, they found out that there was something in these products that was adding calories, but was not listed in the nutritional section of the labels. (I'm not going into the math here. Use our carb calculator for that. Just trust me here, OK?) When they called the manufacturers and actually got to ask someone about this (rare, but it does happen) they were told that the extra calories were coming from these special ingredients, which did not have to be counted as carbs, because "they produce a negligible effect on blood glucose".

Along side of this issue, something else was brewing. It came to the attention of the powers that be that some companies (I can think of one beginning with A right off the top of my head) were making a lot of money selling "low carb" bars... but wait - the FDA had never established guidelines for what can be classified as "low carb"! Oh, ho... now we have them... you could hear in the distance. So, investigation ensues, rulings are handed down and the result is, you can no longer call your bars "Low Carb". You have to say something like "controlled carb" or "sugar free" or "protein bar".

And in the midst of all this, the government classified glycerin as a carbohydrate for labeling purposes. So, if you buy a NEWLY LABELED Atkins Bar, say, you'll see that glycerin has been included in the carb count, but then subtracted out with an explanation. Which is, I think, pretty fair.

Maltitol, on the other hand, has so far escaped this labeling fate. It is still omitted from the carb count on so called "low carb" or sugar free chocolate bars. A good company (like La Nouba, which makes the Belgian Chocolate bars on our home page) will give some kind of disclaimer, like "Maltitol, a low-digestible carbohydrate, is omitted from the total carbohydrate count as its impact on sugar/insulin levels is negligible." At least that gives you the heads up.

Now, I know what you're going to say. What you want to know is, so is it a carb or not? and can I have it? To which the answer is (I know you don't really want to hear this) I don't know!!!


The thing is, and now I'm being dead serious, I don't think that anyone knows enough about this to make blanket statements that a certain ingredient will or will not affect all individuals. In the several years that I've been web mastering this site, I've heard it all - from those who eat "low carb" chocolate every day and still lose, to those who bloat up 2lbs if they so much as look at a "low carb" bar. I don't think that they're lying. And I don't think the medical establishment has all the answers here either. With all the conflicting nutrition information that bombards us every day, it's getting harder and harder to know what to believe. What seems certain is that mainstream medicine has a lot to learn about the nutrients our bodies need, how much they need, and how that varies from one individual to another.

So the not-so-simple answer to your simple question is: try it and see. See if you find your weight loss slowing. See if it makes your carb cravings unbearable. In the case of maltitol, you won't have to worry too much about overdoing it: sugar alcohols are notorious for their "laxative" and intestinal discomfort effect when consumed in excess. Do it once, and you'll be cured forever. (Been there, done that.) And by the way, don't forget that stalls can happen on their own without any help from maltitol!

As for me, I think that these products are fine if you can use them in moderation. (I've been known to try a sugar free chocolate bar now and again...see above) And they are certainly better than their high carb counterparts!!!

Would it be better if we all ate "whole foods" and "totally non-processed" foods? Sure and most of us are striving to do that. But this is the real world. And while we're striving for that lofty goal, a protein bar now and again is NOT going to kill you. A low carb bagel might be just the thing for that special Sunday morning breakfast. And a little sugar free chocolate....mmmmmm might just save your life.







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