Let's Talk Types of Carbohydrates

By Carol Dittenhofer, RD, MPH

You have probably heard about simple carbohydrates versus complex carbohydrates so only a simple review will follow.

Simple carbohydrates, which are found primarily in foods and beverages such as fruit juices, table sugar, honey, syrups and candies, break down easily during digestion and can therefore provide "ready", "quick" energy. The glucose is readily absorbed into the blood stream and beneficial when energy is needed rapidly (but has been noted to possibly decrease athletic performance if relied upon in the diet).

Complex carbohydrate found in whole grains, cereals, pasta, beans, brown rice, fruits such as apples and oranges, should be the primary type of carbohydrate utilized for energy in an athlete's diet. Eating complex carbohydrates can boost the amount of glycogen available for energy use during athletic performance. (As noted in the last feature on carbohydrates, there is a strong relationship between pre-exercise muscle glycogen content and the length of time high impact exercise can be performed). Complex carbohydrates are the most efficient fuel for the body and should remain and essential part of an athlete's diet.

Some athletes may experience gastric discomfort from intakes of increased amounts of fruits, vegetables and whole grain cereals the day of a challenging workout or athletic event. Remember that "moderation" is the key to dietary balance and avoid rapid changes in the composition of one's diet. Gradual changes and incorporation of good eating habits will provide optimal benefit.

Some healthy snack ideas: pretzels (watch the sodium!), animal crackers, fig Newton, oranges, bananas, whole grain cookies.



1 1/3 cups whole wheat flour 1 tablespoon brown sugar (packed)
2 tsp. baking powder 1 tablespoon oil
1/4 tsp. salt
1 slightly beaten egg
1 1/3 cups milk

Mix together flour, baking powder, and salt. Beat egg, milk, sugar, and oil together. Add the liquid mixture to the flour mixture, stirring only to moisten the dry ingredients (batter should be lightly lumpy). For each pancake, pour about 1/4 cup batter onto a hot griddle. Cook until pancake is covered with bubbles and edges are slightly dry; turn to other side and cook until above indication.


2 cups spoon size shredded wheat 1/2 cup honey
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 1/4 cup eggbeaters
1 tsp. cinnamon 3/4 cup raisins
1-tsp. baking soda 1/3 cup chocolate chips
1/3 softened oleo
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar

In small bowl, mix cereal, flour, cinnamon and baking soda. Set aside. In large bowl, mix at medium speed, oleo and brown sugar until creamy. Beat in honey and eggbeaters until smooth. Blend in cereal mixture from above; stir in raisins and chocolate chips. Drop by tablespoonfuls, 2 inches apart, onto slightly greased and floured baking sheets. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes or until slightly browned. Can glaze: blend 1-cup confectioner's sugar and 2-3 tablespoons milk until smooth.

Article submitted to
BUFFALORUNNERS.COM in February 2001.