Understanding the different kinds of carbohydrates and recognizing the benefits that come with each of them is crucial for bodybuilders.
Some are complex and will break down slow in the gut, providing the body with prolonged fuel, while others are simple and can be digested quickly for an instant energy boost – so which should you consume and when? If you’re feeling a bit lost in the multifaceted world of carbs, we’re here to provide you with some guidance and useful advice.
1. Slow and natural vs. fast and processed
Generally speaking, naturally produced complex-carbohydrate foods are better than processed, packaged foods which contain simple carbohydrates and trans fats. The first group includes whole grains and foods made from them, starchy vegetables such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn and pumpkin, and finally beans, lentils and peas. They will give you a steady supply of fuel throughout the day by slowly breaking down into glucose, which is the energy source required by muscles in order to both work and grow.
This is the general rule: the more processing is involved in making a certain type of food, the more simple and fast-digested its carbs become. This includes white bread, white pasta, cereals, snacks and all off-the-shelf desserts – they spike your blood sugar very quickly and provide an immediate energy boost, but other than, offer no real nutritional value. The higher in sugar and lower in fiber, the worse the carbohydrate is for you – a diet consisting only of simple carbs is definitely not what you’re looking for in terms of fitness and health goals.
But here’s the catch – the other nutrients found in your meals will greatly influence the speed of carb digestion. In other words, fibers (mostly found in veggies and fruits) and fat-containing protein foods (for example chicken, meat and whole eggs) will slow it down. So, combining white pasta with cauliflower or broccoli will slow the digestion of the pasta, which is otherwise a source of fast-digested carbs. Though, keep in mind that if your goal is to get more lean, you should cut down on the fat and include more fibers in your diet.