Carbohydrates; What are they and why do you need them?

The truth about carbs! For as long as i can remember, the idea that "carbs are bad for you" has left countless people wondering if they should eat that cup of white rice or am i going to turn fat by having that slice of bread.

 What are carbs?

Carbohydrates are 1 of 3 macronutrients (nutrients that form a large part of our diet) found in food. 

There are two main types of dietary carbs;

  • Simple carbs. These contain one or two sugar molecules. Foods that are high in simple carbs include sugar, fruits, fruit juice, honey, and milk.
  • Complex carbs. These have three or more sugar molecules. Foods that are high in complex carbs include oats, brown rice, quinoa, and sweet potatoes.

They are a broad category and not all of the carbs out there have the same role on the body. This comes down to the type of carbohydrate, quality and the quantity consumed in our daily diets that is important. 

There are 3 types of categories that carbs can be split into:

1. Sugars - Sweet, short-chain carbohydrates found in foods. Examples are glucose, fructose, galactose and sucrose.

2. Starches - Long chains of glucose molecules, which eventually get broken down into glucose in the digestive system.

3. Fibre - Humans cannot digest fibre, although the bacteria in the digestive system can make use of some of them. There is strong evidence that fibre, found in wholegrain versions of starchy carbs, for example, is good for our health.

Carbohydrates main purpose in the diet is to provide the body with energy. Generally, most carbs when consumed get broken down or transformed into glucose, which can be used as energy, and carbs can also be turned into fat which we classify as "stored energy" for later use.

Fibre is an exception. It does not provide energy directly, but it does feed the friendly bacteria in the digestive system, which can help us go to the loo a little easier! These bacteria can use the fibre to produce fatty acids that some of our cells can use as energy.

 So what types of food contain carbs?

Carbs are found in many types of food, but the main sources are potatoes, bread, rice, cereals, fruits and vegetables, grains, sugary sweets and drinks, pasta's and baked products. 

When should i eat them?

Its best to consume simple carbohydrates before exercise (30minutes to an hour), they provide the body with fast-acting glucose as fuel.

However, complex carbohydrates also play a role within energy metabolism. By consuming low GI carbohydrates around 2-3 hours before a workout, you can give your body a slow-releasing source of energy. This means you’ll be able to work out for longer and be less likely to have a dip in your blood sugar levels in the middle of your workout.


The bottom line is, carbs are not bad for you as long as you are eating the correct amount and type of carbs. You should prefer eating complex carbs to simple carbs as they are healthier, richer in nutrients and also low in calories.




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