Understanding the Difference Between Good Carbs and Bad Carbs


Carbohydrates are often misunderstood and get a bad rap when it comes to diet and nutrition. The simple truth is that carbohydrates make glucose, which is later used for energy to sustain you and for healthy body function. Carbs increase blood sugar and provide fuel for the body which is either used for sustained energy or turned to fat, depending on the type of carbohydrate you have consumed and how much energy you expend.

The confusion surrounding carbohydrates and part of the bad rap comes from the difference between simple and complex carbs:

Complex Good Carbs: Healthful and Complex

Complex carbohydrates give a kick-start to your metabolism and provide stamina and endurance to get through your day. Complex carbs are healthier, full of fiber to keep you satisfied, and your body has to work harder to metabolize these carbohydrate foods. Natural food often contains complex carbohydrates, such as fresh fruit, vegetables, and whole grains.

A few complex carbs are:

  • Popcorn
  • Bran cereal
  • Brown rice
  • Legumes
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Peanut butter
  • Fresh fruit
  • Green veggies
  • Whole-grain bread

Simple Carbs: Swift and Simple

For a quick spike in blood-sugar, many people reach for the simple carbohydrates, such as what is found in processed snacks, sugar, and dairy products. These foods are digested quicker, thus giving you a quick source of energy that doesn’t last very long. If you eat more of these foods than you need for energy and physical activity, the simple carbohydrates turn to fat.

Some other examples of simple carbs are:

  • White and brown sugar
  • Syrup
  • Candy
  • Molasses
  • Refined breads
  • Fructose
  • Fruit juice concentrates
  • Honey
  • Soda
  • Lactose
  • Raw sugar


Carbs and weight loss

Don’t believe the diet myth that you can’t eat carbs if you want to lose weight. Actually, complex carbohydrates are ideal for weight loss. The fiber in these foods contributes to being more satisfied and fuller, which can prevent binging or a sense of deprivation.

Good Carbs and training.

Carbs and training go hand-in-hand; carbs provide the fuel that is needed by the athlete to maintain rigorous activity and workouts. Complex carbs will speed up your metabolism which can give you that added push to get through challenging routines or training exercises. Simple carbs will give you a quick boost that can help get you started. For optimal energy, you can pair complex and simple carbohydrates to stay pumped during training:

  • About 30-60 minutes before you start training, eat complex carbohydrates. This could be a bowl of oatmeal or whole wheat pasta and tomato sauce- whatever you like!
  • Just before training begins, eat something containing simple carbohydrates. This could be a cup of yogurt or a banana.

Carbohydrates are nothing to be afraid of, and these nutrients play an integral role in weight loss and strength-training. Identifying foods that contain complex versus simple carbs is the key to sustained energy that can fuel you to get through even the busiest of days. Strive to integrate more complex carbohydrates into your daily diet and fewer simple carbs to prevent stored calories from turning to fat.

About the Author:

Daniel Lessex is a health and fitness writer specializing in nutrition, the latest studies on diet and weight loss, and eating right for fitness. He writes of a number of blogs including Good EATS Meal Plans and Big Al’s Family Fitness.

Established in 2001, Early to Rise publishes information dedicated to helping you live your best possible life. Here you’ll find effective and proven strategies to increase your health, wealth and productivity.