Carbohydrates | A General Overview

Author: Rod Ferris CPT (YMCA, ACE), CPAFLA


Carbohydrates also referred to as ‘carbs’ or CHO’s can be broken down into two categories: simple sugars and complex carbohydrates.

Simple Sugars: These carbohydrates, known as monosaccharides consist foods which can be easily converted into a carbohydrates most  simple form - glucose. Glucose can be used to supply fast acting,  short term energy to the body. Excellent sources of simple sugars  include honey, fruits, vegetables and berries.

Complex Carbohydrates: These carbohydrates, known as  polysaccharides are made up of a combination of long chains of 
saccharides. These carbohydrates are excellent sources of energy  which are broken down more slowly by the body and thus supply a  longer lasting source of energy. Excellent sources of complex  carbohydrates include bread, rice, pasta as well as crackers and potatoes.

Carbohydrates supply the body with 4 calories of energy per gram.  Carbohydrates are very efficient source of energy during exercise because they can be stored as glycogen directly in the working muscle. Ever wondered about a list of low carbohydrate foods?

Many endurance athletes use a process called ‘carbo loading’ in an attempt to increase their carbohydrate reserves before a race. This practice involves dramatically increasing the proportion of carbohydrates in the diet during the few days immediately preceding the event. This process is thought to raise levels of stored glycogen thus enhancing its availability in competition.

Log your Carbohydrate Calories

See how many carbohydrate calories you are ingesting with a food log. Get yours to print now.

How many Grams of Carbohydrates Do I Need?

Carbohydates should be around 40-60% of your total calorie intake in a day (depending on your goal). To figure out how many carbohydrate calories you need you need to figure out what the total calorie content you should be ingesting per day is and then take say 40%-50% of that and then you'll get your total amount that you would need in calorie content.

For example, someone training for a marathon might need 60 or higher percent of their calories from carbohydrates.

Other Carbohydrate Links

Complex Carbohydrates
Low Carbohydrate Foods
Low Carb Diet Review


Annie is trying to lose weight and she has a goal of 2000 calories per day.

2000 calories daily goal / 40% of this would be 800 Calories. Since there are 4 calories per gram of carbohydrates Annie should be ingesting about:

200 grams of carbs.


1 banana (23g), Cup of Oatmeal(27g), Cup of Quinoa (39g), Apple (14g), Can of beer (13g), 2 Slices of Pizza (72g), 1 slice of Rye Bread (15g)

This can come from many sources and doesn't have to all be from complex carbohydrates. It can come from simple sugars found in fruit (fructose).


Next: Fats