March 20, 2023

NUTRITION, SUPPLEMENTS, TRAINING   |     Affiliate Supplements    |     01/19/2023

At a glance

There’s no denying that carbohydrates have had their fair share of human enemies over the decades. According to the International Food Information Council, 5% of American adults actively follow a diet that emphasizes low carbohydrate consumption. Meanwhile, health professionals continue to encourage us to eat our grains, fruits, and vegetables, all of which contain carbohydrates. So, it’s clear that confusion revolves around this nutrient. 

In this article, we will unveil the truth about carbs, diving deeper into what it is and its function and types. We will also discuss whether or not a low-carbohydrate diet is healthy. 



Carbohydrates, along with proteins and lipids, are a macronutrient found in food and beverages. Carbs are readily abundant and are naturally found in sources like fruits, vegetables, grains, milk, nuts, seeds, peas, beans, and lentils. In addition, food manufacturers sometimes add carbohydrates to foods in the form of sugar or starch. 


Role of carbohydrates

Carbohydrates play several essential roles in our bodies. The following are some of the critical functions of carbs:

Provides energy

Carbohydrates are our body’s primary fuel source. Although fat and protein provide energy, carbs are our body's preferred energy source. When consumed, they are digested in the body, and the starches and sugars are broken down into simple sugars. They are then taken into the blood, where they are referred to as blood sugar or blood glucose. This glucose goes into the body's cells with the help of a hormone called insulin. The glucose is then used for energy. Extra glucose is converted to glycogen and saved for later use in the liver, muscles, and other tissues. Alternatively, excess glucose is turned into fat. 

 The energy provided by carbs is needed to help fuel your body's functions, whether you’re simply breathing or going for a run. They keep you going throughout the day and during short to moderate lengths exercise. They are the primary fuel for movement, protein biosynthesis, cognitive activity, and other necessary functions. 


Carbohydrates & training

Carbohydrates are the master fuel during specific training sessions. A high carbohydrate diet has been found to increase endurance and intermittent high-intensity performance due to glycogen stores. Athletes need to restore their body's carbohydrate reserves, particularly during rigorous training or competition. For example, consuming carbohydrates while working out for more than an hour can enhance performance and postpone fatigue. It is recommended that athletes consume about 3 to 12 grams of carbohydrates/ kilogram of body weight/ day, depending on their exercise regimen. As exercise intensity and length increase, so should the athlete's carbohydrate consumption.

The timing and amount of carbohydrates consumed before, during, and after exercise play a big role in an athlete's performance. Carbohydrates should be the primary nutrient in a pre-workout meal. This prevents the athletes from going hungry before and during exercise and keeps the optimal energy level needed by the exercising muscles. The pre-workout meal should be consumed about 3-4 hours before an event. During brief or less intense exercise sessions, additional nutrition may not be required. If exercise lasts longer than an hour or if the environment requires that glycogen be replenished in order to sustain intensity and length, athletes may need to consume carbs during the activity. This intake should commence shortly after starting the exercise. When engaging in the extended activity, the usual recommendation is to ingest between 30 and 60 grams of carbohydrates per hour.  

Following a workout, having a carbohydrate-rich snack will enable the body to begin restoring its glycogen reserves. Consuming 1-1.2 grams of carbs per kilogram of body weight per hour for the first 4 hours post-workout is advised.


Some carbohydrates have been found to promote digestive health. We have a large collection of microbial organisms living within our gastrointestinal tract, or the gut. Many of these microbes are healthy bacteria that support immunological and digestive health. Some carbohydrates, such as fiber, nourish the beneficial microbes in the intestines and encourage their development. Therefore, for optimum gut health, fiber is also crucial.


Protecting against disease

According to studies, eating a diet high in whole grains and fibers from whole foods lowers the chance of developing heart disease and stroke. In addition, type 2 diabetes, colorectal and rectal cancers, and obesity may all be mitigated by fiber.


Controlling weight

This one right here may come as a shock to some. Yes, carbohydrates can help in controlling weight. You just need to choose the right foods that contain the right types. There is proof that having a diet rich in fruits, veggies, and whole grains can aid in weight management. These foods have bulk and fiber content that satisfies you while consuming fewer calories, which helps with weight management. Contrary to what proponents of low-carb diets say, few studies demonstrate a link between a diet high in healthy carbohydrates and obesity or weight increase.


Types of carbohydrates

Carbohydrates contain four calories per gram and are classified into three main types: starches, sugars, and fibers. And, as you can imagine, they’re not created equally. Instead, they are classified as "simple" or "complex" carbs based on their molecular composition and what our bodies do with them. Since food has one or more carbs, it can get tricky to identify what is healthy and what isn't.


Simple carbohydrates

According to the American Heart Association, simple carbs are made up of easily digestible sugars. They include the table sugar that comes to mind when we hear the word "sugar." In addition, they also include sugars that naturally occur, like those found in milk or fruits, and refined or manufactured sugars, like those added in processed foods. Added sugars, including refined sugars, lack vitamins and minerals while providing calories which may lead to weight gain with high intake. However, naturally occurring sugars come with various vitamins, minerals, and fibers that our bodies need. 

 As their name implies, simple carbs are simple, meaning the body can quickly break them down into glucose and, in turn, are rapidly absorbed through the gut. This is one of their significant downsides, as they can cause a spike in our blood sugar levels. Insulin is then released to aid the glucose molecules in entering cells and allow our blood sugar levels to go back down. That's why you might feel a rush of energy once you eat your dessert, and then you end up crashing into fatigue as the energy is depleted. 


Complex carbohydrates

Complex Carbohydrates are composed of a long, complex chain of sugar molecules. Both fibers and most starches are complex carbs. Sources of starchy carbohydrates include beans, legumes, fruits, veggies, and whole-grain products. Plant-based foods, like fruits, veggies, and whole-grain foods, also contain fiber. Animal products don’t. Dietary fibers are not digested or broken down by the body. Instead, most of them pass through the intestine, where they stimulate and help with digestion. They help regulate blood sugar levels, lower cholesterol, and help us feel full for longer. 

Many sources of complex carbohydrates provide the body with the necessary vitamins, minerals, and fibers. That is why they are often referred to as healthy carbohydrates. Compared to simple carbohydrates, complex carbs take longer to be broken down by the body, making it less likely to spike blood sugar levels. However, both simple and complex carbs are converted to glucose and are used for energy. 


Is a low-carb diet healthy?

Low-carbohydrate diets have become commonly adopted for weight loss. The Atkins and the ketogenic (keto) diets are popular low-carb regimens. For epilepsy and other medical problems, some doctors suggest the keto diet. 

Strict dietary restrictions can be challenging to maintain over time. Some carb-limiting diets contain a lot of animal lipids and oils. These foods may raise the chance of developing heart disease. In addition, this diet is low in fiber. Specialists are still determining whether a low- or no-carb diet is healthful. Before embarking on a low- or no-carb diet, make sure to consult with your doctor.

**These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Always consult a physician before starting a new diet regimen or new supplement product.

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