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Bulletin #9 – Carbs: Ultimate Food Fuel Part I

Carbohydrates are grouped into twogeneral classes: complex carbohydratesand simple sugars.  Complex carbohy-drates are nothing more than simple sug-ars linked together into long chains.  Yourbody digests the complex carbs intosimple sugars and releases them into thebloodstream as glucose.  In the end, then,all carbohydrates are converted into glu-cose before they are used.  Based on this,you might think it wouldn”t make any dif-ference whether you get your carbs fromstarch or simple sugars—but it does.Simple sugars are released into thebloodstream immediately, causing a rapidincrease in blood sugar level and an insu-lin surge.  Because simple sugars are re-leased faster than the body can burn themfor energy or store them as glycogen, in-sulin causes the access to be convertedto fat.Complex carbs, on the other hand,must be digested, a process that slowsdown their rate of release into the blood-stream, resulting in a more moderate in-sulin release and a more uniform energylevel.  Also, since they don’t cause as bigan insulin release, complex carbs are notas prone to be converted to fat.  

Parrillo Performance

Onehundred grams of sugar will have adifferent effect on your body thanone hundred grams of starch, eventhough both supply 100 grams ofcarbohydrate.The Parrillo PerformanceNutrition Program further subdi-vides complex carbs into twoclasses:  starchy carbs and fibrouscarbs.  Good sources of starchycarbohydrates are potatoes, rice,beans, oatmeal, and whole grains,and good sources of fibrous carbsinclude broccoli, lettuce, spinach,green beans, asparagus, and otherfresh vegetables.  On The ParrilloPerformance Nutrition Program, youeat at least one to two servings of starchycarbs and one to two servings of fibrouscarbs at each meal, along with a lean pro-tein source.High fiber foods such as fibrouscarbs contain cellulose, a plant carbohy-drate that humans cannot digest.  Cellu-lose, provides bulk which helps with elimi-nation and is good for your intestines.Also, fiber and protein slow the digestionof starchy carbs, resulting in a moregradual release of glucose into the blood-stream and more sustained energy levels.This way, insulin release is more moder-ate, rather than the sharp spike of insulinreleased in response to simple sugars.When you combine foods in the way rec-ommended by our nutrition program, youhave more energy and less fat storage.Plus, you can eat all the vegetables andsalad greens you want and still stay lean.Be sure to avoid simple sugars.These include not only processed sugarbut also foods like honey, milk, and fruit.Milk contains lactose, or milk sugar.  Fruitcontains a simple sugar known as fruc-tose, which is easily converted to fat inthe liver (1).  Although fresh fruit and lowfat dairy products are healthy, nutritiousfoods, they contain a lot of natural sugarswhich are easily converted into body fat.If you’re striving for ultimate leanness anda high energy level, avoid the consump-tion of sugary foods, including fruit anddairy products.

Animals have a very limited abilityto store carbohydrate and instead rely onfat as the storage form of energy.  Fat is amore efficient way to store energy be-cause it contains nine calories per gram,as compared to four calories per gram incarbohydrate, and because it does not re-quire water for storage, as does carbohy-drate.  Since animals are mo-bile, they store energy as fat.That way, they can store moreenergy in less space and withless weight.Only about 600 gramsof glycogen (the body’s stor-age form of carbohydrate) canbe stored by the human, al-though this probably variesaccording to the individual’straining state, diet, and amountof muscle mass.  Glycogen is storedmostly in the muscles where it will beused, and also to a small extent  in theliver.  Muscle glycogen is not released intothe bloodstream and is only used by the muscle in which it’s stored.After muscle glycogen stores be-come depleted, liver glycogen is brokeninto glucose units and released into thebloodstream for use by working musclesthroughout the body and by the centralnurvous system.  Because the human bodycannot store much carbohydrate, it isvery important, especially for athletes, toregularly consume a diet high in complexcarbohydrates to fuel the body.

Many experiments indicate that car-bohydrate is the body’s preferred fuelduring exercise.  More than 99 percent ofthe carbohydrate is used in the body toform adenosine triphosphate, or ATP (2).ATP is the fuel source used directly bythe muscles to power contractions.  ATPis not stored by the body so it must beconstantly produced from the aerobicmetabolism of carbohydrates, fatty acids,and amino acids (aerobic means “withoxygen”).Carbohydrate is unique in that it canalso be metabolized anaerobically (with-out oxygen).  The anaerobic productionof ATP from carbohydrate is called gly-colysis.  Glycolysis makes a big contri-bution to the energy expended during veryintense exercise of short duration, suchas weight lifting.  Lifting weights requiresso much energy so fast that aerobic me-tabolism can’t keep up with the demand.By the time oxygen can get from the lungsto the muscles and inside the cells, yourset is already over.Although glycolysis is relatively in-efficient, it offers the advantage of gen-erating energy instantly upon demand.One disadvantage of anaerobic metabo-lism is that it produces lactic acid as awaste product.  Lactic acid accumulatesinthe muscles and the blood and is respon-sible for the burning sensation at the endof the set.  

The accumulation of lacticacid shuts down energy production andforces you to stop and rest.  Most of thelactic acid makes its way from themuscles into the bloodstream.  The liveris able to convert the lactic acid back intoglucose so it can be used as fuel again.The conversion of lactic acid back intoglucose requires oxygen, and this is whyyou continue to breathe hard for a fewminutes while you’re recovering after aset.  This pay-back from anaerobic me-tabolism is called “oxygen dept.”In conclusion, your body likes toburn carbs for energy and to store en-ergy as fat.  Generally speaking, the morecarbs you eat, the more carbs your bodywill burn for energy, and the more fat youeat, the more fat you’ll store.  This is whyathletes—and especially bodybuilders—should eat a diet high in complex carbo-hydrates and low in fat,  In fact, anyoneinterested in having a lean, high-energybody should consume a high-carbohy-drate, low-fat diet.  We also recommendcarbohydrate supplementation with Pro-Carb™, which is formulated withmaltodextrin, a slow-releasing carbohy-drate.  Not only is it high in carbohydrates,but a Pro-Carb™ drink also supplies wa-ter which is needed for glycogen storage.To order Pro-Carb™, call our toll-freenumber at 1-800-344-3404.


1.  Shafrir E. Fructose/sucrose me-tabolism, it’s physiological and pathologi-cal implications.  In: Sugars and Sweet-eners, Kretchmer N and Hollenbeck CB,eds.  CRC Press, 1991.

2.  Pate, TD and Brunn, JC.  Fun-damentals of carbohydrate metabolism.In: Nutrition in Exercise and Sport, eds.Hickson, JF and Wolinsky, I.  CRC Press,1989.3.  Zubay, Biochemistry.  Addison-WesleyPublishing Company, 1983.

2018-03-13T11:10:39-04:00 May 8th, 2009|Technical Supplement Bulletins|

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