The truth about Carbs.
Carbs are simply energy that our bodies can use to do work. They come in different shapes and sizes and that determines how easy or difficult it is for your body to break them down into a form it can use at the cellular level (glucose).
Simple carbs are generally very sweet and are digested and absorbed almost instantly when you eat them. These include table sugar, candy, corn syrup, lactose (the sugar in milk), white bread, fruits, etc.
Complex carbs are generally starches and take longer to digest and be absorbed because they are bigger (and more complex). Foods like potatoes, brown rice, oats, etc. are in this category.
You may be under the impression that simple carbs are “the white devil” however I believe that there is a place for both simple and complex carbs in one’s diet. Especially if you are an athlete and train hard several times a week. Due to the impact of simple carbs on your blood sugar, timing is ever so important!
Eating simple carbs increases your blood sugar. Our bodies are control freaks when it comes to blood sugar, partly because the stuff is sticky and gets gummed up in the little blood vessels in your feet and eyes. Anyway, when your blood has too much sugar in it, your pancreas releases insulin to go collect the extra sugar and take it to your muscles and liver to store for later. If those energy storage units are full, then the extra sugar gets converted into fat for long-term storage. This is why eating too much sugar and eating it at the wrong time can contribute to being overweight.
Therefore the best time to eat carbs is when you need them: in the morning for breakfast and around workouts. However, there is individual variation due to genetics, varying degrees of insulin sensitivity, and of course, it depends on your training goal (gaining muscle vs leaning down require different strategies).
I recommend saving simple carbs for after your workout. A solid workout uses up the stored sugar (glycogen) in your muscles. By eating or drinking simple carbs with a source of easy-to-digest protein within 30 minutes after your workout, you are giving your body the fuel it needs to recover – it will NOT be stored as fat. In fact I find if I don’t have some simple carbs with my post-workout shake my recovery is a lot slower and my muscles get much sorer. Low fat chocolate milk or low fat protein shakes (with milk and/or fruit) are good post-workout drinks.