Simple vs. Complex Carbohydrates

Updated on September 14, 2017

The argument about simple and complex carbohydrates, and which type is better, has been going on for decades. In fact, each has its purpose. Before we even get into the pros and cons of each, you need to understand what simple and complex carbohydrates actually are.

Simple Carbohydrates

Simple carbs are high on the glycemic index, which means they are digested quickly and released into the bloodstream, resulting in a spike in both insulin and blood glucose. Examples of simple carbs include most breads (especially white), white rice, soda, candy, cookies, honey, syrup, carrots, and most processed foods.

Baked goods made with white flour are simple carbohydrates.
Baked goods made with white flour are simple carbohydrates.

Complex Carbohydrates

Complex carbs are the opposite of simple carbs. They are low on the glycemic index, which means they are absorbed and released into the bloodstream more slowly. Complex carbohydrates include brown rice, sourdough bread, rye bread, most vegetables, oatmeal, whole grain pasta, sweet potatoes, and beans.

Most vegetables are complex carbohydrates.
Most vegetables are complex carbohydrates.
Simple Carbs
Complex Carbs
Candy
Vegetables
Soda
Brown Rice
White Bread
Sweet Potatoes
Most processed foods
Berries

Pros of Simple Carbohydrates

  • A simple carbohydrate is good for immediate energy.
  • Simple carbohydrates increase insulin, which helps drive glucose and nutrients into muscles to be used for fuel and recovery.

Cons of Simple Carbohydrates

  • A rise in glucose leads to a rise in insulin, which tells your body that it has been fed. Your body then absorbs the glucose in your muscle and fat cells. So a rise in glucose/insulin can result in fat gain.
  • With the rise in glucose, your body slows down the process of burning fat for fuel and continues to add glucose to fat and muscle cells.
  • Since insulin moves glucose from the blood to fat and muscle cells, it can leave you feeling low-energy and tired.
  • Now not all simple carbohydrates are bad. Fruit and milk both have some simple carbohydrates in them. They also have some complex carbohydrates.


Pros of Complex Carbohydrates

  • They are digested more slowly so they leave you feeling more satisfied throughout the day.
  • They are better for digestion and absorption because they take longer to break down.
  • They provide you with a more consistent energy throughout the day, so no sugar crashes.
  • Complex carbs generally carry more vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
  • They won't lead to insulin spikes that can cause fat gain.

Cons of Complex Carbohydrates

  • Because they are digested more slowly, you may not feel full right away.
  • They are not ideal if you need energy right away.
  • Since they are digested more slowly, they don't lead to as big an insulin response. Your body does not get fuel and nutrients as quickly.

The Bottom Line

As you can see, complex carbohydrates seem like a far better option, but simple carbohydrates have their time and place as well.

Simple carbohydrates will benefit someone like a bodybuilder who is looking to add size and muscle. After a workout, your body has been depleted of its glucose and glycogen stores. Eating a fast-digesting carbohydrate will increase your insulin response, which will drive glucose, protein, and amino acids into the muscle cells to help them recover. Insulin will also drive those same nutrients into fat cells, just not as many because your muscles need them more This is why chocolate milk is good after a workout. It has the simple carb to increase your insulin and milk which has the protein that your muscles need to recover.

Complex carbohydrates are ideal for everyone throughout the day, especially those who want to lose weight and burn fat. Since complex carbs digest slowly, they keep you feeling more satisfied throughout the day. This helps people avoid over-eating. They also supply you with key vitamins, minerals, and fiber, which is healthy for your digestive tract.

© 2016 Brandon Rich

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, caloriebee.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://caloriebee.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)