Definition of carbohydrates

You’re training for a marathon or maybe a 10k and it’s the night before the race. So what types of foods should you eat for the optimal performance in your race.

Foods loaded with carbohydrates are probably the number one choice. Maybe it’s a huge plate of pasta. I can remember some friends that were Olympians and trained at the University of Florida downing plate after plate of spaghetti prior to a hard training session or race.

But what exactly are carbohydrates and what role do they play in our lives. As opposed to proteins and fats, carbohydrates, or saccharides, are sugars and starches. They’re responsible for giving us the energy we need to make it through the day.

But did you realize that carbohydrates exist in the human body as well as animals? In fact it’s cellulose that composes many plant structures.

There are two types of carbs, simple (monosaccharides) or complex (polysaccharides). This has led to food production developing how carbs are consumed which has caused potential problems resulting from the consumption.

“Carbs,” as they are now commonly referred to, have become both a blessing and a curse, as the process of modern food production has changed the way they are consumed. There are two types of carbohydrates, simple, or monosaccharides and complex, or polysaccharides.

Types of Carbohydrates

The most easily digested carbohydrate is the simple carbohydrate. You can find it readily in fruits and dairy product.  Our bodies utilize this type of carb for energy and its easily broken down and used up quickly. You can locate this type of carbohydrate in such foods as processed, refined foods like white sugar, pastas, and white bread.

Now complex carbs are found in vegetables (cellulose), whole grain breads and pasta, brown rice,


Carbohydrates in Food

and legumes and take a longer period of time to digest. This is a list of the carbohydrates in food with unrefined grains, such as brown rice, retain complex carbs, unlike refined grains, such as white rice.

This is because the refining process eliminates the grain’s fiber and nutrients. So, if you eat a bowl of oatmeal, your stomach will fill up your energy will last longer versus a bowl of cereal loaded with sugar.

What is the importance of carbohydrates?

How are carbohydrates digested?

Your liver is responsible for converting carbohydrates into simple sugars, or glucose. Once this is accomplished the production of insulin is initiated into the pancreas.

What is the function of insulin?

Many of us have heard about insulin but do we know what it actually does? It takes the sugar and deposits it into the body’s cells to be used as energy. When digesting simple carbohydrates, insulin levels react at a much higher pace causing the carbohydrates to be used up more quickly for energy.

Have you ever eaten a candy bar for energy only to have a sugar crash later that day?

Complex carbohydrates give us long lasting energy because they take longer to digest. There is also less of a reaction to the insulin in the body.

Where does glycogen come into the equation?

Glycogen is produced when too much glucose is produced by the human body. Your liver and muscle cells provide storage for it. But, the glycogen that’s not stored in the liver and muscle cells in now stored as fat.

If you need a short burst of energy, chances are you’re getting it from the glycogen!

Remember those long distance runners I spoke about earlier in the article, their bodies turn to the fat reserve for the extra energy.

So the question is… are carbohydrates good for you?

In moderation a certain amount of carbs is required for us to maintain our daily bodily functions. Lack of carbs will certainly initiate a feeling of fatigue, muscle cramping, or even cognitive problems.

While the human body can produce fuel and energy from the protein and fat, carbohydrates still play an important role in our diets. Avoiding all carbs will negatively affect the body. Eating moderate amounts of the right type of carbohydrates to keeps the body fueled properly.

The recommendation of the Institute of Medicine suggests that 40-65% of an adult’s “dietary energy” should come from carbohydrates.