Today we live in a world where the Atkins and South Beach diets are touted as successful ways to lose weight. Both diets eliminate all carbohydrates in their first stage. Dr. Arthur Agatston, founder of the South Beach diet, admitted to TIME Magazine that when dieters returned to eating regularly after following his program, they would most likely regain their lost weight. Carbohydrates play an essential role in the diet, supplying the body with fuel and boosting glucose levels. However, not all carbs act the same. Some carbs will raise blood sugar levels higher and faster than others, which is important for post-workout snacks and people suffering from hypoglycaemia. These blood-sugar-raising carbohydrates are known as fast-acting carbs.
While all carbs raise blood sugar, fast-acting carbs will work more quickly than slow-acting carbs. It is easier for the body to convert them into glucose. Glucose is quickly digested in the stomach. It then travels to the small intestine and is absorbed by the bloodstream. Once the glucose enters the bloodstream, the entire body can utilise its energy.
More often than not, simple sugars, which are made up of the simplest molecular structure, break down more quickly than complex sugars, which have longer molecular chains. However, this is not always the case. Potatoes, which contain complex chain molecules, are digested quickly. The molecular chain has so many branches that it can be broken down easily.
Some fast-acting carbs are potatoes, white bread, non-diet soda, power drinks, raisins, milk, lifesavers, fruit juice, sticky white rice, cake frosting, jelly beans and spaghetti. Any food containing sugar, honey or corn syrup is a fast acting-carb. It is also possible to purchase glucose tablets and gels.
Fast-acting carbs can be consumed after a workout. This will spike your insulin levels and direct maximum blood flow to your muscles, allowing them to get more nutrients and begin repair.
For people who suffer from hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar), it is important to always carry a supply of fast-acting carbs. The symptoms of low blood sugar include heart palpitations, fatigue, hunger, sweating, trembling and confusion. Once you begin to feel these effects, you should consume 10-15 grams of fast-acting carbs. If after 15 minutes, your blood sugar levels are still too low (under 70 mg/dl), consume another 15 grams of fast-acting carbs. Repeat this until your blood sugar levels are stable.
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