Guide to Carbohydrates


Carbohydrates 101

Carbohydrates are the body’s primary source of energy for many of your bodily functions, including muscular exertion. They help spare muscle protein, supply energy for your workouts, and provide four calories per gram. If you choose the right carbohydrates, they can also be packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Carbohydrates can be split into three sub-types: sugar, starch, and fiber.

Simple Sugars

Simple sugars, also known as simple carbohydrates, such as fructose and lactose, are found naturally in fruit, milk, and other foods or supplements. The most effective time for you to eat or supplement with simple carbohydrates is immediately after your workout, since they are quickly digested and help start the recovery and repair process. Have these in moderation.


Starch is a type of complex carbohydrate made up of a long chain of linked sugar units, and is found in foods like whole grains, rice, pasta, and potatoes. Complex carbohydrates tend to have a slower digestion rate, as they require digestive enzymes to break them down into glucose for energy, thereby providing a sustained release of energy over time. With the exception of your post-workout meal, complex carbs should represent the majority of the carbohydrates in your diet.


Dietary fiber is an indigestible carbohydrate that passes through your intestinal tract without absorption. The two classes of fiber are soluble and insoluble, and both are necessary in your diet to promote satiety and healthy digestion. The bacteria contained in your digestive system lack the enzymes to break down the various types of fiber into a form that can be used as energy by your body. Although it provides no calories, fiber is a must in your diet if you want to keep lean and add size.

Carbohydrate Digestion

The majority of carbohydrates are broken down by your body into blood glucose to be used as energy. If you have no immediate use for the glucose circulating in your blood, it gets transported to your liver and muscles, and stored as glycogen for later use. However, if you consume carbohydrates in excessive amounts and your body’s glycogen stores are full, the extra blood glucose will typically be converted into triglycerides and stored as body fat.

A Final Note on Carbohydrates

The right carbohydrates can supply you with a steady amount of energy to power your most intense workouts. Be sure to limit processed or refined carbohydrates like white flour, white sugar, and white rice. Following these general guidelines should help you meet your musclebuilding and fitness goals.

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