Carbohydrates are one of the body's main energy sources. They provide your body with quick energy, but if you eat too many simple carbohydrates they can cause blood sugar spikes and the body to store excess glucose as fat. Complex carbohydrates (starches) take longer to digest and give your body a sustained source of energy. Complex carbs are found in things like whole grains, beans, peas and vegetables.
Both simple and complex carbohydrates are turned to glucose in the body for energy. Glucose is used in the cells of the body and the brain, and any unused glucose is stored in the liver and muscles for later use. Simple carbohydrates and some starches are found in foods such as fruits, milk, sugary sodas and ice cream.
Simple carbs are a group of sugar molecules that have a simple chemical structure and are digested quickly into glucose. These are called monosaccharides (single sugars) and disaccharides (double sugars). Examples of monosaccharides include glucose, fructose and galactose, while disaccharides are sucrose and lactose.
Complex carbohydrates have a more complex chemical structure and are digested more slowly into glucose. These are called polysaccharides and are also known as starches. Starches are found in foods such as brown rice, pasta and whole wheat bread.
Carbohydrates are the body's primary fuel source during exercise and should be consumed regularly to ensure peak performance and recovery. However, not all carbohydrates are created equal. It is important to select carbohydrates that are high in fiber and lower in simple sugars as these will be absorbed slower into the body and will not create that spike in your blood sugar levels. This will keep your blood sugar more stable and will prevent you from hitting a'sugar wall' during your workout.