Simple Carbohydrates Vs Complex


Carbohydrates are one of the three macronutrients. The others are protein and fat. They play a major role in the primary source of energy for our body. Carbohydrates either use the energy fast or store it in your muscles and liver as glycogen for later.

Carbohydrates consist of 3 components – fibre, starch, and sugar. Whilst complex carbs contain a higher amount of fibre, simple carbs contain mostly sugars.


Simple Carbohydrates (Refined)

These carbs are also called quick carbs or bad carbs. Because of the high glycemic index, they release energy fast into your bloodstream. Therefore, you will feel a short burst of energy followed by fatigue. 

Simple carbs can also make you feel to eat more at time. Especially when you eat high sugary food such as candies, sweets, syrups, pasta, pizza. This large amount of carbs can cause obesity and diabetes. 

Sample of simple carbohydrates:

  • Pasta (especially white pasta)
  • White rice
  • Rice snacks
  • Crackers
  • Cookies
  • Donuts
  • Muffins
  • Soft sandwich bread 
  • Pastries
  • Pizza dough
  • Hamburger or hot dog buns

Complex Carbohydrates

Complex carbs provide longer release of sugar than simple carbs. Therefore it takes longer time to digest them and they release the energy slower. In other words, complex carbs will make you feel full for a long time. They also contain quality nutrients important for your health.

Sample of complex carbohydrates:

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How many carbs do you need?

45% to 65% of your daily calories should come from carbohydrates. 

According to studies, it is around 130-200g per day with an average consumption of 2000kcal with normal physical activities. However, it depends on your body weight and if you are a female or a male.

For a bulking phase for a woman with 60-70kg, it is recommended – 225g to 325g of carbohydrates. Despite this carbs intake might seem a lot, it is necessary in order to build muscles. Not only protein is enough. For gaining muscles it is also important to increase your calories intake.

Healthy carbs – alternatives 

When it comes to eating healthier, the first thing you can do is to replace simple carbohydrates with alternatives which means complex carbs.

That way you can still eat for example pasta but made from different flour which provides you with more nutrition and fibre. You don’t have to replace all refined carbs just most of them.

Eat pea or lentil pasta instead of just pasta

Brown rice instead of white rice

Add quinoa, buckwheat and lentils to your diet

Soba noodles in instead of ramen or udon

Less potatoes or rice and add more fiber rich vegetables

Choose whole grain bread, rye or sourdough instead of white bread 

Try using plain oats, white yogurt and add the ingredients separately to control the sugar amount

Try kombucha instead of soft drink


Whether your goal is to keep your body healthy, build muscles or lose weight, the rule is to ensure that most of your carb intake comes from complex carbohydrates. 

Refined carbs contains too much sugars and fats that causes obesity. Try to limit eating out as much as possible and prepare your food ahead.

You can still occasionally enjoy your favorite food but be mindful of how much simple carbs you eat. 

If you are a foodie person, just chose the right food and enjoy it. There are lot of tasty recipes for healthy food that can taste even better than unhealthy processed food. 

Get inspired with protein pancakes

carbohydrates article

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