Carbohydrates – All You Need to Know About Them

You must have heard a lot about carbohydrates. I hope this will complement you with a little bit of knowledge.



They are without dilemma the best food for filling muscles and promoting good health. People of all ages and athletic abilities should base their diet on carbohydrates and an adequate amount of protein and fat. Unfortunately, what people do not know is what they are, how much they should eat, which leads to imbalance in the diet.

Frequently asked questions:

  • I know I need to eat carbohydrates to fill the muscles with energy, but which ones are the best?
  • How much is too much?
  • Is it important if I choose vegetables, fruits, sugar, refined flour or brown rice?


We will try to answer these questions below.

Carbohydrates are divided into:

  • simple and
  • complex carbohydrates or sugars.

Simple carbs are divided in monosaccharides and disaccharides (with one or two molecules).

They look like this:

Monosaccharides are glucose, fructose and galactose and disaccharides are sugar, milk sugar or any combination of these three monosaccharides.

Complex carbohydrates are a combination of the ones we mentioned, and by merging they create long complex chains.


The gastrointestinal system and the transformation of food into energy

  1. Lip cavity: starch is partially digested with saliva. The swallowing bit travels with the esophagus into the stomach.
  2. Stomach: chewed food is mixed with gastric juices and further degrades to those of the lower structure. Going further into the intestines.
  3. Small intestine: Carbohydrates break down into simple sugars and then are absorbed into the bloodstream where they later go into the muscles and the liver.
  4. Colon: only the rest is absorbed here, which is water and some minerals, and the rest is removed from the body.
  5. Liver: As mentioned above, after the muscles are fed and when the other excess of these carbohydrates is filled, it is stored in the liver that muscles use as a reserve when they spent their supplies.


Glycemic index

The easiest way to explain is that they are fast and slow carbohydrates. In other words, the quick ones are simple and the slow ones are complex.


What are they good for?

Athletes are told to consume complex carbohydrates such as integral pastries, potatoes, integral or brown rice a few hours before activities because this food contributes to a stable blood sugar level and therefore they are slow, that is, they give energy for a long period of time. Fast carbohydrates should be consumed exclusively after activities where blood needs are high or during activity because they cause a sudden rise in blood sugar, followed by a sharp fall and a quaking hypoglycemic reaction.


How to control it?

There is something called the Glycemic Index of certain carbohydrates that represents the rate of release of “carbohydrates” in the blood. It was created as a need for people suffering from diabetes, but we athletes quickly applied it to ourselves as a measure of proper nutrition.

There are a number of factors that affect their release into the blood:

  • Quantity of eaten food
  • The amount of fiber in food
  • The amount of fat in the body
  • Way of preparing food
  • Amount of protein and fats in a particular meal
  • Gastric acid

It is important to know this ratio of blood sugar release because this way we can accurately regulate how much energy we need for training and how much is too much.


How much carbohydrates to consume?

About 60-70% of calories in sports nutrition should be from carbohydrates (starch and cereal). Most people eat too much carbohydrates.

For athletes, the intake of carbohydrates per meal should be 1 gram per kilogram of body weight, for example: 70 kg would be 70 grams of carbohydrates. (280 calories) One gram of carbohydrates is 4 calories.

A survey was conducted on cyclists who, on 3 occasions, ate foods of different GIs and exercised until exhaustion. Research has shown the following:

  • Lentil (low GI 29) – duration of activity 117 minutes
  • Glucose (high GI 80) – duration of activity 108 minutes
  • Baked potato (high GI) – Duration of activity 97 minutes

From what they concluded it is important to pay attention to the low GI intake, i.e. the carbohydrates of slow blood sugar release.

However, we must not forget that after workouts, especially those of the higher intensity the blood sugar need is higher, it is good to eat something with a higher GI like a banana so that the organism does not drain the energy from the muscles and liver itself, because our goal is to keep that reserve constant.