Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are a large class of organic compounds that includes sugars, starches and fibers.

 

Carbs contain two hydrogen atoms and an oxygen atom (H2O) for every atom of carbon.  

One molecule of water added to a carbon atom results in a hydrated carbon.

Carbohydrate is the choice nutrient for athletes. Both before and after workouts.

The name carbohydrate is given to the family of compounds that have the aforementioned hydrated carbon ratio.

Carbohydrates are classified as simple (sugars) or complex (starches and fibers) based on size.

 

Simple carbohydrates are divided into monosaccharides and disacccarides. Complex carbohydrates are considered polysaccharides.

Carbohydrates are further described by whether they are refined or not. Refining is a process that reduces the complexity of the compound and removes the micronutrieints that were intergrated in it. The end result is a less nutritive food.

Carbohydrates contain four kilocalories per gram of food.

 

Simple carbohydrates are classified into monosaccharides and disaccharides. Monosaccharides contain either six carbons (glucose and fructose), or five carbons (ribose).

Disaccharides are two monosaccharides joined together. Disaccharides are rapidly metabolized to monosaccharides by the addition of a molecule of water. This process is known as hydrolysis and is the starting point for releasing the stored energy of carbohydrates by the body.

 

Polysaccharides are large storage molecules of repeating units of glucose. In plants they are starches and found in grains, potatoes, rice as well as the more complex compounds of vegetables. Polysaccharides and starches are ultimately metabolized into monosaccharides or single glucose units. Glucose is the sole fuel source for most cells.

In plants, glucose units are linked together in chain form called starches (polysaccharides). These starches are the stored energy of plants. Consequently, when animals consume plants (fruits, grains and vegetables), they must first digest these starches and convert them into simple sugars or monosaccharides (glucose).

In humans, glycogen is the polysaccharide used to store glucose. Glycogen is a large molecule, made up of repeating units of glucose.

 

Glycogen is the storage form of carbohydrate found in muscle and liver cells or circulating in blood.  

Glycogen is classified as a polysaccharide and must first be converted into individual glucose units before its energy can be released.

When an athlete follows a colorful complex carbohydrate diet, the breakdown of glucose provides all of their energy needs. When an athlete consumes a high fat or protein diet, they must first reverse engineer glucose, then break it down to release energy.  This process produces severe metabolic consequences. This is the main reason why high protein diets are a bad choice for athletes.

 

I can sum up the energy exchanges of life with the following description. The solar energy of the sun is captured by the colorful pigments of plants and converted into the chemical bonds of polysaccharides. This energy is made available to fuel cell machinery when the polysaccharide is hydrolyzed into individual glucose molecules.

Once glucose is free of its polymer extension, its chemical energy,  stored in the sugar’s 6 carbon-to-carbon bonds, can be transferred to high-energy phosphate bonds. The energy released when carbons bonds are broken during glucose metabolism is coupled to the formation of molecules of Adenosine TriPhosphate (ATP), the biological currency of energy.  This biochemical pathway reveals the beautiful simplicity of nature.

More in this category: « B Vitamins