Complex Carbohydrates

The Influence Of Complex Carbohydrates

When food that is high in complex carbohydrates is being consumed, the digestive enzymes have to work much harder to access the bonds to break the chain into individual sugars for absorption through the intestines.

Consequently, digesting such foods takes longer as the sugars are slowly absorbed providing prolonged energy and less chance of suffering from so-called blood sugar crashes.

Complex carbohydrates or starches are defined as multi-chained sugars or paired sugar molecules compared to simple carbs which are smaller molecules of sugar. Fructose, glucose and galactose are simple sugars that provide an instant energy boost.

Sometimes it is necessary to get the effect of quickly-released energy from simple carbohydrates found in bananas, dates and figs, for example. During a high-intensity run it is indeed this type of energy that lets you perform on a high level for a few minutes until you need to repeatedly eat more simple sugars.

If foods such as biscuits, cakes, pastas and bread are consumed in large amounts the sugar will be converted to fat. It's unlikely that at the same time you'll be running on such foods so it's recommended to avoid eating too many empty calories.

That's one reason why pasta parties and even carbo-loading in the days leading up to a race are a thing of the past. Pasta parties are exciting getting to know fellow runners and sharing a meal together but shouldn't be mistaken as an excuse to override your digestive system the night before competing.

On longer runs and during ultramarathon races complex carbs are an important source for energy in order to get to the finish line. During prolonged exercise the muscles need fuel in the form of glycogen.

Complex carbs are a source for sugars that fuel the cells and is needed for muscle contraction. If you have wisely planned and tested your nutritional needs in training you'll know which amounts you need so that your body can work at it's full potential and avoid contributing to fat stores.


These foods are some of the best sources for multi-chain carbohydrates and anything but empty calories:

  1. Quinoa
  2. Buckwheat
  3. Flaxseed
  4. Millet
  5. Wild rice
  6. Oats
  7. Amaranth
  8. Beans
  9. Yam

  1. Peas
  2. Brown Rice
  3. Sweet Potatoes
  4. Lentils
  5. Buckwheat pasta

While I was waiting for another delivery of my favourite energy bars and porridge from Urkornhof in Austria, I had to make do with preparing my own energy bars. It was great fun to experiment with different ingredients in the kitchen and create bars that have the ideal consistency.

Energy bars are very convinient to take on long runs and also serve as a mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack.

I came up with the following energy bar recipe. It only takes you ten minutes to prepare these tasty bars:

7-8 dates, pitted, 1 small banana, 2 TBSP of sesame seeds, handful of almonds or walnuts, 3/4 - 1 cup of popped amaranth or quinoa, 1 TBSP of millet, cinnamon, nutmeg

optionally: ground ginger

Put all ingredients into a food processor, cut dough into rectangular pieces or small balls and let stand for an hour. Wrap individual bars into clear foil and store in refrigerator or freezer.

The bars last up to three days in the fridge and two months in the freezer so it's a time-saver to make a big batch at once and grab a bar on-the-go. The bars contain fat, too, for prolonged energy and plenty of complex carbohydrates from the amaranth and simple sugars from the dates.

And have you tried some of the recipes featured in Brendan Brazier's book "The Thrive Diet"?

I'm sure some of you have. And for those who haven't're about to find out how Brendan prepares energy bars packed with power in an instant.

Take a look at the video now and watch how Brendan Brazier prepares energy bars packed with power in an instant. Brendan is renowned for his athlete-specific approach to nutrition and is a professional, very successful endurance athlete himself. In the book, you find a recipe section geared to the specific needs of endurance athletes who are looking to improve their performance not only by adjusting their training but mainly their nutrition.

When I first discovered "Thrive" I immediately experienced tremendous improvements in my recovery and performance. Before my 12-hour run last year, I prepared my own sports drinks, energy bars and gels. During the entire race I never suffered from an energy low. I had the ideal mix of complex carbohydrates en route and energy gel made from simple sugars.

The best thing about making your own energy bars is that you can make big batches of them at once and store them in your freezer for up to two months. Creating your own power food teaches you a lot about how much energy you really need. You get to find out which ingredients best mix together and as you try and test your energy food during training you might discover that very sweet bars aren't as palatable after a while. Try adding a hint of mint or ground ginger for variation.

Return from Complex Carbohydrates to Nutrition
Return from Complex Carbohydrates to Ultra Running Insights Home Page

New! Comments

Have your say about what you just read! Leave me a comment in the box below.