Understanding Carbs 2


I previously went over simple carbs in our first part of Understand Carbs. Let’s dive into complex carbs.

Complex carbs are glucose polymers that are identified by their structure as the polysaccharide group of sugars. They are not easily absorbed into the bloodstream and must be broken down into single unit glucose molecules before they can enter the system. This slows the digestive process but it helps to sustain energy for longer durations of time.

Starch is a complex carb that is found in rice, potatoes, wheat and corn. It can take up to 3 hours to breakdown and is good for sustaining longer duration of energy. Distance runners rely on carbs to sustain energy. Sprinters work anaerobically and gain their energy from their fat storage.

Types of starches:

  • Amylopectin – is more readily digested than amylose.
  • Amylose – preferred choice amongst many diabetics

Glycogen must be consumed throughout the day to replenish glycogen storage and not lose energy. It is stored in fat cells, muscle tissue and liver

Fiber is a carb the body cannot break down into a simple digestible form of sugar. It moves through the intestinal tract intact which helps in the removal of waste and toxins and increase the effectiveness of the entire digestive process. This helps prevent colon and breast cancer. It also helps promote healthy intestinal tract bacteria. The large intestine is home to a multitude of beneficial bacteria called symbiotic microbes that support health and immune function. Fiber can be found in whole grains, legumes, vegetables, fruit skin and potato skin.


Let’s review the sugar groups:

  • Monosaccharides – glucose, fructose, galactose, mannose, sorbitol and mannitol
  • Disaccharides – sucrose, maltose, and lactose
  • Polysaccharides – starch, fiber, glycogen, cellulose and dextrin
  • Oligosaccharides – fructo-oligosaccharides, galacto-oligosaccharides and mannan-oligosaccharides

While there are some recommendations, there is no minimum daily requirement for carbohydrates. As I stated previously, it is dependent on a person’s weight and fitness goals.

Some options to consider:

  • If you are an athlete who is often in competition you should consume large amounts of complex carbs prior 2-3 hours prior to training. Carb-loading is good for glycogen storage to prevent energy loss.
  • If you are a person looking to lose weight, the general daily intake baseline is 45% carbs – 35% protein – 20% fat. The consumption of large portions of carbs should be avoided three hours prior to bedtime because unused carbs will tend to store in fat cells during rest.

Once again it’s a recommendation and not a necessity. Consult your doctor or nutritionist to find the your best options. Remember to monitor your blood sugar levels by referring to the Glycemic Index. The Glycemic Index is a rating system that compares how carbs affect blood glucose levels within two hours of being consumed. Carbs that are high on the Glycemic Index respond similarly to glucose in terms of how fast blood sugar levels rise upon ingestion. Foods that are lower on the Glycemic Index are recommended for sustained energy and are a better choice for weight loss than foods ranked higher.


Before we close, I spoke briefly on ketosis in my Lipids: Part 2. Now is the time to revisit that subject.

Ketosis is a metabolic state in which there is a build-up of ketone bodies, a liver by-product prevalent during low carb conditions. When the body is deprived of carbs, insulin levels drop activating the secretion of glucagon. Glucagon is a pancreatic hormone that assists in the breakdown of liver glycogen.

Glycogen then becomes depleted and the body uses fatty acids as its source of fuel. This is great for burning fat. Remember to take caution in whatever activity you do. While ketosis is great for burning fat, this promotes a high level of uric acid which produces gout and kidney stones.

Not to scare you. I would still give it a try.


[1] Medline Plus. Complex Carbohydrates. Retrieved from: https://medlineplus.gov/ency/imagepages/19529.htm
[2] WebMD. Your Guide to Eating Healthy Carbs. Retrieved from: https://www.webmd.com/diet/ss/slideshow-your-guide-to-eating-healthy-carbs
[3] Livestrong. A Complete Guide to Complex Carbs. Retrieved from: https://www.livestrong.com/article/27398-list-complex-carbohydrates-foods/