Understanding Carbohydrates: Endurance Energy

| Last updated on | Published on November 7, 2007 | Reply
Complex Carbohydrate Foods

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Carbohydrate diets are popular these days because people want to stay slim, healthy and have enough energy to propel them through out their busy days. Knowing the right carbs to eat is very beneficial because eating the wrong carbs can drain your body of energy and even cause weight gain.

In general, there are two main type of carbohydrates:

1. Complex carbohydrates: Found in barley, oatmeal, pasta, brown rice, potato, wholegrain cereals, fruits, etc.
2. Simple carbohydrates (refined carbs): Found in cakes, candy, soft drinks, pretty much anything with lots of sugar in it.

The good carbohydrates are usually the complex carbohydrates and the bad carbohydrates are usually the simple carbohydrates. Complex carb is healthier for the body because the body takes longer to break the carb into blood sugar (glucose). The result is a gradual rise and fall in glucose levels. Simple carb is basically the opposite, it causes a rapid increase of glucose levels, which is bad for your health because it may increase the risk of diabetes. Imagine driving your car hard all the time, revving it to redline every time you shift. Soon your engine will start to breakdown because of oil leaks and other engine problems. This is similar to what you are doing to your body when eating too much simple carbs.

It is best to avoid as much simple carbs as possible, even if they are sweet and delicious. Also, keep in mind that not all complex carbs are good for you and not all simple carbs are bad for you. A good way to tell which food has the better complex carb is to look at the glycemic index food chart. The glycemic index does a good job but it has its flaws. The thing I don’t like about the glycemic index is that its measurement is based on only one specific food. When people eat a meal, they usually eat more than one type of food. Combining food can drastically affect the GI value of each food.

Examples of low GI value food (good for you):

  • Cherries – GI value = 22
  • Apple – GI value = 38
  • Strawberries – GI value = 40
  • Oatmeal – GI value = 49
  • Broccoli/Cabbage/Lettuce – GI value = 10
  • Mushrooms/Onions/Red Peppers – GI value = 10
  • Green Peas – GI value = 48
  • Barley – GI value = 25
  • Brown Rice (cooked) – GI value = 50

Examples of high GI value Food (bad for you):

  • Rice Crackers – GI value = 91
  • Jelly Beans – GI value = 78
  • Pretzel – GI value = 83
  • Doughnut – GI value = 76
  • Rice (instant) – GI value = 91
  • Tofu Frozen Dessert – GI value = 115

Do you really need carbohydrates? Not necessarily. Your amazing body can convert proteins and fat into glucose through a process called gluconeogenesis. As long as you provide your body with enough proteins and fat, you can survive for a while without consuming carbohydrates. So why do you need carbohydrates? The answer is simple, “energy efficiency.” It’s true that protein and fat can be converted into glucose for fueling your body with more energy but it is less efficient. Converting fat and protein into glucose require more steps than converting carb into glucose. The end result is that more energy is being wasted to convert fat and proteins into glucose.

This is why athletes consume complex carbs before competing because it fuels their bodies quickly, efficiently and gives them energy endurance. Learning how to eat like a champion athlete will make you feel healthier, stronger and you will have more energy to power you through out the day.

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Category: Nutrition and Supplements

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