Carbohydrates and their effect on the body by Ben Cooper

Carbohydrates and their effect on the body by Ben Cooper


The two different types of carbohydrates (carbs)

  1. Simple Carbs- These carbs are easily changed into glycogen by insulin which means that the body doesn’t have to work very hard (burns less calories to use them) to turn them into an easily usable energy source. An example of some simple carbs are white bread, rice and pasta, fruit, vegetables, chocolate, sweets, table sugar and fizzy drinks.
  2. Complex Carbs- These carbs take longer to go through the process of glycolysis which means that your body will have to work harder to use the energy that they provide us with. This makes these carbs better for fat loss because they steadily release energy over a given period of time. They will generally have a lower glycemic index rating and therefore they will keep your insulin levels more stable than their simple carb counterparts. These carbs will also keep you feeling satiated (fuller) for longer than simple carbs. An example of complex carbs are whole grain bread, rye,  rice and pasta, sweet potatoes, beans and legumes.


Q and A

Q- Ok, so now we know the two different types of carbs, what do they do for us and how does the body use them?

A- Believe it or not, all carbs are actually poisonous to the body. When any carb is consumed (both simple and complex), as it is swallowed and enters your stomach your body releases a hormone named insulin, which takes the glucose, fructose, sucralose and many other names that end in “ose” which essentially mean “sugar,” and it converts them into the only form of sugar that our body can store, “glycogen.”


Glycogen is then shuttled to our liver and various muscles which act as storage sites all over our body. This glycogen is now accessible for us to use as energy at any given time. For example if you are sitting in a chair with your arms hanging at your side and you contract your biceps to scratch your shoulder the glycogen that is stored in your biceps fuels the movement that allows it contract.


carb-foodsQ- What happens to us if we eat too many simple or complex carbs?

A- When you eat simple carbs your insulin levels spike really high in order to deal with the amount easily used sugar that has been put onto the body. This causes a big surge of energy (think of how you feel after an energy drink, full of energy followed by a lethargic and sleepy state are two of the most common symptoms after the initial hit has worn off) followed by a sudden drop in energy levels. The reason this happens is because your body either uses the energy right away (if you were to do a hard sprint or vigorous exercise for a short period of time) or if it is not used right away your body will store any excess glycogen that hasn’t been burned in your fat cells.  

Complex carbs however, have a different effect. Due to them being steadily released your insulin levels gradually climb and descend usually over a much longer period of time and therefore there is much less of a drastic decline in your blood sugar levels. This should stop you from feeling lethargic and sleepy after consumption. Instead you should feel satiated (satisfied) for longer before you need to eat again.


Q- So how about protein and fat, the other two macronutrients. What are their effect on insulin?

A- Both protein and fat cause no insulin response whatsoever. It is only carbs which cause an insulin response, which is why when you are trying to lose body fat (notice that I never said body weight here!) the easiest way to go about it is to keep your insulin levels stable by eating mainly protein, healthy fats and a small amount of complex carbohydrates and avoid as much as possible simple carbs.


There are only two scientifically proven ways to lose body fat;

  1. Keep your Insulin as stable as possible. Meaning that you stay away from simple carbs and eat limited complex carbs with a higher proportionate amount of protein and healthy fats until you are happy with your body fat percentage.
  2. Gain Muscle. Muscle is expensive in terms of the amount of calories needed to maintain it. That means that if you gained muscle mass your body would burn more calories over the course of the day than if you had less muscle, without you having to lift a finger. The more muscle you have, the faster your metabolism will be and the faster your metabolism is the more calories you burn each day. More calories burned = more fat loss. Do your resistance training!



Now you have the knowledge to make informed decisions about the food choices that you make. You now know the impact of carbs on the body and two scientifically proven ways to reduce your body fat without having to starve yourself and do any of these fad diets that only work short term. If you eat according to the guidelines above you will turn your body into a fat burning machine and you can have the body that you have always dreamed of. Your Welcome 😉


Disclaimer: Always consult a professional coach before embarking on a strength training regime and before starting any exercise program, always consult your physician to check that you are in good enough health to participate.


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Ben Cooper


Red Level Fitness

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