What Are Complex Carbohydrates And Why Do You Need Them?
So I know a thing or two about what bad fuel can do to an engine – it can damage seals, make it run poorly, and eventually blow it up if used for too long. With fresh, clean fuel, on the other hand, the engine runs smooth and strong. Your body is no different. You need complex carbohydrates to keep yourself running strong.
Carbohydrates are the fuel for your body. And just like engine fuel, there are good and bad carbs. If you feed your body too many bad carbs, you’ll hinder its performance when it matters most. But if you feed your body good carbohydrates, it will be much more efficient when on the track.
Below, you’re going to find out about the basic difference between good and bad, why good carbs are so important, and which foods are rich in good carbohydrates. That way, you can make sure you’re eating more of the good stuff and less of the bad stuff.
The Difference Between Good and Bad Carbohydrates
There are two distinct types of carbohydrates: simple and complex.
Simple carbohydrates are fast-acting carbs – meaning they’re burned fast. As a result, they don’t supply adequate energy for long durations and often cause hunger to kick in sooner rather than later. These are the bad carbohydrates.
Complex carbohydrates are the good carbs. They are burned slower than simple carbs, which means they give off more energy over a longer duration – energy we desperately need when riding. They also keep you full longer – which means you don’t need to eat as much as often.
The complex is the good carbohydrates, and the ones you’ll want to make sure constitute most of your daily serving size (60% of your daily diet).
What Are Examples of Complex Carbohydrates
There are three main sources that are higher in complex carbs: whole-grain products, fruits and vegetables, and legumes.
Whole grains are notorious for containing generous amounts of complex carbs, in addition to high amounts of fiber, minerals, nutrients, and phytonutrients that are beneficial to your health.
They also have a low glycemic index, which means they cause a slower and steadier change in your body’s blood sugar levels. This benefit has been linked to improved weight loss and control of Type-2 diabetes.
Whole grain foods high in complex carbs include:
- Brown rice
- Whole-grain pasta
- Whole wheat bread
- Whole oats
- Whole rye
- Whole-grain barley
- Whole-grain corn
Fruits and Vegetables
Most fruits and vegetables are loaded with healthy carbs, nutrients and vitamins. They’re also cheap and simple to prepare. Experts generally recommend between 2 and 2.5 cups of fruits and vegetables per day, based on a 2,000-calorie diet.
Just about any fruit and vegetable is a good source of carbohydrates, with starchy vegetables being one of the better sources:
- Sweet potatoes
*Special Note: While fruits are not strictly considered complex carbs, they offer enough similar benefits to be included within this list.
Legumes are not only high in complex carbohydrates, but also high in fiber and protein, while being low in fat. They have been linked to a decreased risk of several various health-related conditions, including cardiovascular disease, Type-2 diabetes, and prostate cancer.
The recommended weekly serving of legumes is approximately three cups per week, based on a 2,000-calorie diet. Legumes include:
And to get you started on incorporating complex carbohydrates into your everyday diet, below is a great recipe from the Food Network for Buckwheat Pancakes. That’s right, healthy pancakes! This is a great breakfast packed with complex carbohydrates for everyday activity, not just the morning of a race.
If you have any questions or anything to add, please leave them in the comments or on our FaceBook page!