Fast or Slow Carbs: What to Choose?
Carbs represent a great source of energy for the human body. They include different sugar types such as monosaccharides, disaccharides and polysaccharides along with starch and cellulose. These organic compounds are the parts of a structure of all the cells and tissues of the organisms living in the mother Earth. They take part in digestion and metabolism of the human beings and have an impact upon the brain activity as well as aid absorption of the lipids and proteins, which are required for the muscle growth.
Almost all the carbs have herbal origin and are formed during photosynthesis. Honey is a rare example of sugars, which is seemingly made by animals such as bees. However, in reality this product is made from nectar of flowers. Insects are just workers which collect and process sweet «juice», which is used to make honey.
Fast and Slow Carbs
There are many different carbs, which include compounds with different molecular content and properties. Their functions are not similar either. And this is why it is so important to know which ones of them should be included in menu and which ones are better to stay away from. This is especially crucial for the sportsmen which want to gain weight or shred away few kilos.
Carbohydrates are usually divided in two large groups: fast or simple and slow or complex ones. Conditional division depends on speed the carbs are capable to get broken down with during digestive processes and transformed to glucose – the simplest sugar which represents a great source of energy for the human body.
Simple Carbs: The Quick Fix is Not Always the Best Option
Simple carbs consist of the one (monosaccharides) or two (disaccharides) molecules. Food rich in such organic compounds is the way too sweet and increases the level of the happy hormone, that is, serotonin. Majority of people like sweets, however it is not wise to go heavy on them. They do not contain much minerals and vitamins, yet they have a very high energy value. The latter quite often results in obesity.
Apart from glucose, the most widespread fast carbs are as follows:
- Galactose which can be found in milk and milk products such as curd, boiled fermented milk and cheese;
- Sucrose which can be obtained from beet root, brown sugar and molasses;
- Fructose which can be found in some vegetables, honey and ripe fruits;
- Maltose which can be obtained from malt and grapes and is found in beer;
- Lactose – milk sugar, which is the only carb of animal origin.
Sugars, which enter the human body, instantly break down to glucose and enter the blood stream. Pancreatic gland initiates the insulin production and ensures an appropriate blood sugar level to prevent blood thickening. This hormone helps muscles and liver to absorb excessive sugar and store it in a form of glycogen. Thus, excessive sugar is removed from the blood stream, and muscles get additional support.
However, the muscle cells do not need sugar all the time. Once «filled» with sugar, human body undergoes terrible things: insulin gives fat tissues a signal to remove lipids from blood stream and store them instead of breaking them down to get an energy. In liver, it initiates transformation of excessive glucose amounts into triglycerides. This is why people living sedentary life struggle with extra weight.
Of course, athlete should not consume too many simple carbs. However, there are some moments when they should be consumed. Muscles are overworked after intensive workout, and human body is in a need of energy. Here organic substances with high absorption speed come to help. It is important to eat the foods containing fast carbs within 40 minutes after workout. This is a so-called carbs’ window during of which the body intensively digests glucose and initiates the recovery process.
Slow Carbs: The Less the Better
Complex carbs are polysaccharides in terms of their chemical structure. Substances from this group enter the blood stream more evenly and in a slow pace. They help to stabilize the blood sugar level and gradually replenish the glycogen amounts in muscles while maintaining stable energy levels. Such the organic compounds include:
- Fiber (cellulose);
- Insulin formed from the fructose leftovers;
Cellulose is the most widespread carbohydrate, which is produced by living organisms. Every year one trillion or 1012 of tons of such a substance in formed in our planet. It forms the base for the plant cell walls and consists of 500 glucose molecules, which are bonded with each other into long and linear chains. Digestive system of human being is not able to absorb such fibers. However, fibers play an important role in nutrition due to the following reasons:
– They stimulate the gut motility;
– They support internal microflora;
– They remove toxic substances, cholesterol and salts of heavy metals.
Plants store sugar in a form of starch once it is formed during photosynthesis. Later they use it as a source of energy. Potatoes are great sample of such a process. This plant forms the root nodules in ground to live through winter and ensure necessary amount of nutritional substances which will help to form fresh shoots during spring.
Classic sports diet includes of about 50-60 % of carbs from total amount of food two thirds of which are the slow ones. They provide the body of an athlete with necessary energy and help him to stay full for a longer periods of time as they take a longer time to absorb than the fast ones. The latter is very important for shredding sportsmen.
The Ways to Identify Carb Types in Foods
Foods rich in carbs are assessed in terms of their glycemic index (GI). This index reflects the speed with which food will increase the blood sugar level or how fast it will be transformed to glucose.
It is considered that slow carbs can be found in the foods which have GI of up to 69. Such foods include:
- Barley, buckwheat, finely grounded barley, rice and millet porridges;
- Pasta made from crude flour;
- Vegetables such as cabbage, spinach, cucumbers and zucchini;
- Sour fruits such as kiwi, apples, pears and grapefruits.
If GI exceeds 69, then simple carbs prevail. Such foods include:
- Chocolate and candies;
- Corn flakes;
- Pastries such as bagels and ginger bread;
- White bread;
- French fries;
- Artificially sweetened drinks such as syrups and sodas.
Use the table containing GIs of different foods (click here) to elaborate your menu. Remember that the smaller GI is, the more complex organic compounds will be. The will be slowly absorbed by the human body and will have a greater quality.
According to the data provided by the Open University of Great Britain, adult should consume 260 grams of carbs per day. At that, 90 grams of them only should be accounted for sugars.