Today’s world is confusing. With so many food choices and convenient foods that line grocery store shelves, it can be hard to distinguish which carbohydrates are good for you and which ones aren’t. Just a decade ago, there was only a fraction of food brands you could choose from as compared to today. Think about it. When you were a kid, how many choices for peanut butter did you have? Jiffy and Skippy. When you go down the peanut butter aisle today, how many are choices do you have? Probably way too many to count.
The problem with food choices today is that most of your information is misinformation. Fad diets like IIFYM have taught you that food choices don’t matter, as long they fit your macros, when in fact it’s the furthest thing from the truth ever imaginable. What you eat fuels your body, and not all food is created equal, not even close. And when it comes to carbohydrates, there are a few distinguishable differences, which you need and have to know to live a healthy life. The key isn’t to avoid carbs altogether, but to find the right ones.
What Are Carbohydrates?
Carbohydrates are composed of fiber, sugars, and starches, and provide the fast-acting energy your body and brain need to function. Carbohydrates can be broken down into two main categories – Simple and Complex.
What Are Simple Carbohydrates (Bad Carbs)?
Simple carbohydrates are just sugars and can be further classified into two types – glucose and fructose. Glucose acts as your brains main energy source and is also known as the sugar in your blood. When you eat foods that are primarily composed of simple carbohydrates your blood sugar rises and your body secretes insulin. The insulin then directs your body to store the glucose in your muscle and liver as glycogen, with excess glucose being stored as body fat. Fructose is a naturally occurring sugar found in fruit and is also an additive to processed foods. Fructose doesn’t spike your blood sugar levels, however if your glycogen stores are full, additional fructose will turn into body fat as well.
Most simple carbohydrates are found in the forms of food additives, which are usually hidden in a products ingredient list and can go by several different names such as Corn syrup, High fructose corn syrup, Raw sugar, Brown sugar, Dextrose, Fructose, Galactose, Glucose, Granular fruit grape juice concentrate, Maltodextrin, Lactose Sucrose, Molasses, Organic cane sugar, Sorghum, Turbinado, and Honey.
Contrary to popular belief, the most important component of reading a food label is the ingredients list. You know, the tiny fine print under the macronutrients. Simply looking at the nutrition panel and macronutrients can be misleading, especially since the first thing you probably notice is the calorie count. Quality of calories is always a more important factor than the quantity of calories. Looking at the ingredients list is a better indicator of the actual health value of the food you’re consuming, and what’s really in it.
Now if you encounter a labyrinth of ingredients you’ve never heard of, that’s a definite red flag, and usually indicates that it’s heavily processed.
The next time you go to the grocery store, look at the nutrition label of the wheat thins, chips, or packaged food you're about to buy. Most products will slip in one of the simple carb sugar additives listed above, which will spike your insulin and help you gain more body fat.
RELATED ARTICLE How To Read A Nutrition Label: The Ultimate Guide
What Are Complex Carbohydrates (Good Carbs)?
Complex carbohydrates are structured as starch or fiber and digest much slower than simple carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates are found in whole grains, legumes, and starchy vegetables, which are composed of longer chained sugar molecules
The difference between starch and fiber is that starch is composed of many sugar molecules and is broken down easily and converted into glucose. Fiber, is a bundle of sugar molecules as well, but does not spike blood sugar. The human digestive system cannot break fiber down until it nears the end of the digestive tract, and is therefore considered to be a nondigestible carbohydrate. Fibrous foods include bran, nuts, wheat, vegetables, barley, beans, and oats. Complex carbohydrates are better for your because they slow the absorption of sugars, which remove cholesterol and slow down your digestion to keep you fuller for longer.
Sometimes meeting your macros for carbohydrates can be hard. If you're looking for a clean complex cabohydrate, make sure to check out Clean Carbs.
Clean Carbs is made with real whole-foods, sweet potatoes, yams, oats and blueberries, to help you meet your macros, increase fullness, and improve health and performance.
What's The Difference Between Simple Carbs And Complex Carbs?
Simple carbohydrates are just sugars. The problem with eating convenient foods like pop tarts, pizza, bagels, donuts, and pastries, is that it takes your body on a never-ending roller coaster ride. The by-product of carbohydrates in convenient foods is glucose, which raises your blood sugar. Simple sugars are digested rapidly and when your body is flooded with highly refined and processed foods, you secrete insulin because your body treats it like poison and is trying to clean your bloodstream of all the excess glucose. Well what do you think happens with all that excess glucose? It turns into body fat. Not only that, but once all the glucose is expelled from your blood, guess what? You’re hungry again and the ride continues. That’s why when you eat highly refined and processed foods, you feel hungry all the time. Complex carbs work their way through your digestive tract at a much slower pace, and release steady doses of glucose without causing huge spikes in blood sugar.
Whole Wheat Bread
Fiber Rich Fruit
Simple Vs Complex Carbs: The Takeaway
Reducing the number of simple carbohydrates and replacing them with natural complex carbohydrates during the day will help you control your hunger, give you longer-lasting energy, and keep your stored body fat to a minimum. Eat whole grains, fiber-rich fruits, beans, and fiber-rich vegetables. No food is bad food until you have too much of it. If you’re goal, is to create a healthy lifestyle, cut body fat, and gain lean muscle mass, then your best bet is to reduce your simple carbohydrate intake. Get rid of the empty calories and fill yourself with nutrient-dense food to get the results you want.
Ready To Add Some Complex Carbs To Your Diet?
Your body needs carbohydrates for optimal performance and recovery during high-intensity and endurance training. But, not all carbohydrates are created equal. Swolverine's Clean Carbs is made with 100% natural whole-foods from complex carbohydrates, including Sweet potatoes, Yams, Oats, and Blueberries to provide the long-lasting and sustained energy your body needs to fuel performance and optimize recovery. Delicious and rich you can add it to your smoothies, shakes, or mix with water, for a rich and tasty treat.
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We believe that everyone can optimize not only their athletic performance but their human potential. The way we believe we can optimize performance is through transparency, clinically effective doses, and clinically proven ingredients with evidence-based outcomes. We provide the nutrients you need to power your active lifestyle.
ReferencesWebber, Joel, and Mike Zimmerman. The Men's Health Big Book of Food & Nutrition: Your completely delicious guide to eating well, looking great, and staying lean for life! Rodale, 2012.