In the race to get to your bloodstream, fast-digesting carbohydrates will win versus slow-digestion options. Knowing which carbohydrates are fast-digesting can help you feel more energetic after a tough exercise session and can quickly raise blood sugar levels if they drop too low. Keeping fast-digesting carbohydrates on hand post-exercise session can also facilitate muscle-building. Always check with your physician about the best carbohydrate options for you based on your overall health and physical activity level.
Why You Need Fast-Acting Carbohydrates
Fast-digesting carbohydrates can give you a much-needed energy boost and replace carbohydrate stores you may have burned through in your latest exercise session. “Muscle & Body” magazine recommends taking in 60 to 80 grams of fast-digesting carbohydrates post-workout session to improve muscle growth and recovery. It also recommends eating 50 grams of fast-digesting carbohydrates immediately upon waking to keep stress hormones that can otherwise slow your metabolism under control.
Refined bread products, such as white bread, bagels or potatoes, are all examples of fast-acting carbohydrates. Carbohydrate servings are typically measured at 15 grams each, and 1 slice of white bread, 1/2 cup of mashed potatoes or 1/3 cup of cooked pasta each contains 15 grams of carbohydrates, according to the USDA National Nutrient Database. Sugary foods such as cookies and cakes are also sources of fast-digesting carbohydrates, but tend to be high in fat and calories.
Blood Sugar Dips
If you are hypoglycemic or have diabetes and have a tendency to feel your blood sugar levels drop during exercise, it is a good idea to have fast-acting carbohydrates sources on hand. If you feel shaky, nervous, confused, suddenly anxious or weak, your blood sugar may have dipped too low, according to the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse. To combat this, you can choose fast-acting carbohydrates such as 4 ounces of any fruit juice or non-diet soft drink. Five to six pieces of hard candy, one serving of glucose gel, 8 ounces of milk or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey are digested quickly and can typically raise your blood sugar in 15 minutes or less.
Versus Slow Digesting
Examples of slow-digesting carbohydrates include yams, brown rice, oatmeal, most fruits and whole-grain bread products. These carbohydrate sources are released more slowly into your bloodstream, making them a consistent source of energy during your workout session. While nutritionists typically recommend eating whole-grain carbohydrates that are slower-digesting, these carbohydrate types do have a place in increasing your energy post-exercise routine.
Rachel Nall began writing in 2003. She is a former managing editor for custom health publications, including physician journals. She has written for The Associated Press and "Jezebel," "Charleston," "Chatter" and "Reach" magazines. Nall is currently pursuing her Bachelor of Science in Nursing at the University of Tennessee.