Carbohydrates is a word that strikes fear in many dieters in America. We’ve all heard of Atkins: “When you eat too many carbohydrates (carbs), your body burns some of those carbs for energy and stores the excess carbs as fat.”—Atkins website This is a true fact. If you eat too many carbs, your body will store them as fat. Why? For energy when it needs it later. So what do you do? Well, of course you completely cut carbs out of your diet. I mean really, who needs energy? The simple fact is the body needs carbs to sustain energy. But which carbs do you need? First off, what is a carb? A carbohydrate is simply a sugar—“any of a group of organic compounds that includes sugars, starches, celluloses, and gums and serves as a major energy source in the diet of animals. These compounds are produced by photosynthetic plants and contain only carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen, usually in the ratio 1:2:1” (from So if carbs are made by plants, why are they so bad for you? Simply put, carbs are great for you. You will need them every day.

There are two different kinds—simple and complex. Simple carbs are carbs that are already broken down into the lowest possible form, thus they’re absorbed into the bloodstream quickly for that quick burst of energy. These are generally known as the bad carbs because what happens with simple carbs is once your body recognizes this surge of sugar, it releases insulin to regulate the blood sugar levels. Once the insulin hits the blood, it will take the sugars to your liver and muscles and then guess where? Fat storage for later use. Also, your insulin will bring down your blood sugar, resulting in possible low blood sugar.

Next up are the complex carbs. These carbs are in a chain. This means when your body tries to absorb them, you will need to break them down first. This causes a slow release of the carbs so you get a slower, steadier stream of energy. How do I know if I’m eating a complex carb or a simple carb? This is where the glycemic index (GI) comes into play.

Originally designed for diabetics, in sports nutrition, it can help you to know which carbs you need. The GI measures how quickly a carb is made into glucose and enters the body. It was developed by feeding different carbohydrates to people in 50-gram portions of available carbs. They then monitored their blood sugar levels over the next few hours and put the responses on a curve. The more glucose that reached the blood in the first three hours, the higher the GI number for that carb. We can now classify a carb as a high glycemic carb or a low glycemic carb.

Low GI foods give you a longer, more sustainable amount of energy because they’re absorbed more slowly. Because they absorb slowly, they also reduce hunger, helping with your appetite control. Lower GI foods can help store glucose in muscle and keep it from being stored as fat. If you’re dieting, these low GI foods are the way to go. Eating low GI foods before a workout will make sure you have plenty of energy so that you don’t drop in the middle of it.

High GI foods shouldn’t be consumed before training because the insulin will cause your blood sugar to lower, and you’ll crash in the middle of your workout. I don’t know about you, but I push myself to the edge in every workout. If my edge is only 50 percent of my normal, what a waste of my time.

High GI Foods can also cause fat release during your workout, thus you won’t burn as much fat during your workout. However, high GI foods after training have their benefits. Eating foods with a high GI within 15 minutes to two hours after training can start replacing diminished levels of glucose in the blood. Taking these high GI carbs after a workout will raise your insulin levels and help carry the necessary carbs and protein to your muscles faster. Have yourself a nice juice after a workout to help with the absorption of protein and creatine.

Wow, that was a lot to take in. Just remember—try to eat your simple carbs/high GI level foods right after a workout to help speed up recovery time. Visit your local supplement shop and pick up some glutamine to help. If you take a protein after you train, make sure it’s low in fat. High fat foods cause GI levels to lower because they need to liquefy before they can be digested. Every other meal should contain complex/low GI carbs. In addition, always combine your carbs with protein. Glycemic index of common foods


Mixed grain bread, 28

Oat Bran bread, 48

Pita bread, white, 57

Wheat bread, whole meal, 69

White bread, 71

Bagel, white, 71

Cereal grains

Barley, pearled, 25 Rice, instant, boiled 1 minute, 46

Rice, brown, 55 Rice, white, 55

Couscous, 65 Rice, instant, boiled 6 minutes, 90

Breakfast cereals

Rice Bran, 19

All Bran, 42

Oatmeal, 49

Special K, 54

Muesli, 56

Life, 66

Grapenuts, 67

Cream of Wheat, 70

Cheerios, 74

Total, 76

Cornflakes, 83

Team, 82

Crispix, 87

Dairy foods

Yogurt, low fat, artificially sweet, 14 Milk, skim, 32

Legumes Lentils, red, 25 Kidney beans, 29 Butter beans, 31 Pinto beans, 39 Baked beans, canned, 48 Kidney Beans, canned  , 52

Pasta Spaghetti, protein enriched, 27

Fettuccini, 27 Vermicelli, 35

Spaghetti, white, 41

Macaroni, 45 Linguine, 46

Tortellini, cheese, 50

Fruit and fruit products

Pear, fresh, 37

Apple, 38

Orange, 44

Grapes, 46

Banana, 54

Raisins  , 64

Watermelon, 72

Dates, 103

Soups Tomato Soup, 38

Split pea soup, 60 Black bean soup, 64

Snack food

Peanuts, 15

Popcorn, 55

Pretzels, 81

Vegetables Carrots, cooked, 39

Yam, 51 Sweet potato, 54

Sweet corn, 55 Potato, white, boiled, 56

Potato, new, 57

Beets, 64

Potato, mashed, 70 Potato, baked, 85


Fructose, 22

Honey, 58

Sucrose, 64

Glucose, 100

Maltodextrin, 105

Maltose, 105    Good training and good food = big weight!

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