Carbohydrates are the main source of energy in the body. Every cell in the body requires carbohydrates in the form of glucose especially. Glycogen is the stored form of carbohydrate and is required for all cell and muscle function. Glycogen can be stored in the muscle and the liver and are independent of each other. Glycogen storage in the muscle is utilized by the muscles only. Glycogen from the liver can be released into the bloodstream and provide glucose for cell that cannot produce their own energy. The amount of glucose in the bloodstream must be controlled within a narrow range since these cells are susceptible to damage from excessive or insufficient amounts of glucose. If glucose is unavailable, the body must produce glucose and if the first few days of a fast, 90% of the glucose comes from the breakdown of lean muscle. To prevent the body from running, our carbohydrates must continually be replenished.
Absorption rates differ widely depending on the form of carbohydrates. Large amounts of simple sugar (table sugars, honey, molasses) is not a desirable energy source for anyone, because it burns too fast. When large amounts of simple sugars are ingested in the absence of other nutrients, they enter the bloodstream very quickly. This will cause an insulin spike in the body to control the blood glucose levels and cause the body to become a “fat storage machine”. Starch (natural form of carbohydrates store in plants: corn, peas, beans, potatoes, whole grains and brown rice) is not digested as rapidly and does not promote fat storage nearly as much as simple sugars. Fiber (a form of carbohydrates found in plants that is not digested very efficiently by humans: spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, onions, oat bran) is critical for maintaining the health of the GI tract. Fiber is also very important to absorption because it slows down the release of insulin when digesting starches limiting the amount to be stored as fat.