If you want to eat a healthy, balanced diet, it’s important to provide your body with the three macronutrients: protein, fat, and carbohydrates. Remember that carbs are our body’s most important energy suppliers: they support brain function and also our muscles and organs.
Complex and simple carbohydrates – what’s the difference?
When we talk about carbohydrates, we distinguish between two kinds: complex and simple carbohydrates. They each affect our body in different ways.
- Simple carbohydrates
…are in processed sugar, white flour and products containing it, sweets, fast food, sodas, etc. They are also called “empty calories,” because aside from their sweet flavor, they have no benefits for the body. Unlike complex carbohydrates, simple carbs are immediately absorbed into the blood and provide energy quickly. What happens? Your blood sugar level skyrockets – but it crashes just as fast. This makes you feel tired and crave junk food.
- Complex carbohydrates
…on the other hand, have a lot of benefits for the body. They are absorbed into your bloodstream slower than simple carbs. This means that your blood sugar level rises gradually. What happens? You feel full longer and have fewer cravings. Complex carbohydrates can be found in whole-grain products, rice, corn, millet, potatoes, fruit, lentils, beans, peas, quinoa, amaranth, and buckwheat. They all contain B vitamins, folic acid, magnesium, calcium, iron, protein, as well as fiber. The benefit of fiber is that it is not digested, which keeps you feeling full longer.
Did you know that sugar is a carbohydrate?
Glucose is the smallest and most frequent form of carbohydrates. It’s also often called dextrose, corn sugar, or simply sugar. Our brain and nerve cells depend on the intake of glucose – only with glucose are we able to concentrate. Glucose is stored as glycogen in the blood, the liver, and in the muscles. Runners take advantage of this effect by “carbo loading” the night before a race.
How many carbs should you eat?
Ideally you should consume complex carbs throughout the entire day to keep your blood sugar level stable. If you go a long time without eating anything and then consume a lot of carbs, your blood sugar spikes and crashes. This irregular energy supply makes you feel tired and grouchy.
Carb consumption for athletes
If you do a lot of sports and want to perform well, it’s particularly important to pay attention to your carb consumption (60 to 65% of your diet). However, the amount depends on your personal fitness goal. This carb calculator will help you find out how many carbs you should eat:
Don’t forget to eat enough protein, too. If you have a high-protein meal without carbohydrates, the body may only be able to use 10% of the protein, because there is no insulin available (produced by the body as soon as you eat carbs). That’s why both protein and carbs are important components of a balanced diet.
You should eat a small snack that contains 10 to 15 g of carbohydrates and 5 to 10 g of protein about 15 to 30 minutes before you work out and drink some water.
- Before working out, eat Greek yogurt, whole-grain bread and an egg, a banana, some peanut butter, or a protein bar. Many of these foods contain magnesium and B vitamins, which boosts your energy for the workout.
- After the workout you should also consume a mix of protein and carbs (whey protein and fruit, chicken and brown rice, eggs and toast). The rule of thumb is a 2:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein. However, this can vary depending on your fitness goals.
Do you want to know more about your daily carbohydrate needs? Find out with Runtastic Balance: track your calories and get an overview of your carb, protein, and fat consumption.