Functions Of Carbohydrates

The Truth about the Functions of Carbohydrates

With so much emphasis these days put on high protein diets and the value of proteins to the body, the functions of carbohydrates, which are basic to good health, are often lost in the shuffle. Carbohydrates are essential for the human body to work properly. Carbohydrates are what give us the energy we need to live an active life each day.


You will hear a lot of people say that protein builds muscles. And, while protein is essential to muscle building, the functions of carbohydrates in the body’s cells are what keep the body from breaking down muscles. If you are a person who works out or if you spend the day going from one activity to the next, you are using carbohydrates as fuel, which in the human body translates as energy.

If you don’t eat enough carbohydrates, you will feel a loss of energy and like you are dragging as you try to accomplish each day’s goals. In fact, not only will you feel fatigue but, when your body finds that there are no carbohydrates left to fill its need, it will start using fat and then protein cells instead. When the human body uses protein in this way, it is literally eating its own muscles, which is where protein is stored.


A good balance of both carbohydrates and proteins is necessary for the body to work as it should. Carbohydrates are often good sources of fiber, which help the digestive track to operate as it should. Carbohydrates also have a part in cell fertilization and growth. They provide the energy that fuels our body and that is not just the energy athletes need for long workouts or running marathons.

One of the functions of carbohydrates is to provide the energy the body needs for basic actions, such as contracting the muscles when you want to move. Carbs also help the nervous system to operate properly and give energy to the brain, which allows us to be able to think clearly.

Carbohydrates come in two types, simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates come in such foods as fruits, cookies, cakes or candies. These give us essentially just a short-term burst of high energy and then fizzle out. While we need both simple and complex carbohydrates, the complex types are the ones of most value to our bodies when we need energy and endurance. For example, runners will often carbo-load before a marathon to make sure they have the endurance level necessary to complete it.

Complex carbohydrates come from breads, pasta, legumes, and whole grains, among other sources. The recent trend in low carb, high-protein diets may help you lose weight in the short-term, but will also eventually cause a loss of muscle tissue, energy and will even adversely affect brain and immune system activity in the long term.

The functions of carbohydrates are needed by the body for normal conversion of food to glucose. People with type 1 or 2 diabetes have to be very careful about maintaining blood sugar levels, and keeping a consistent, sustained  level of glucose in the bloodstream throughout the day. Simple carbohydrates, such as a piece of fruit of a chocolate  bar raise sugar levels quickly and dramatically, while eating a piece of whole grain bread would create a more level and sustained release of carbs into the bloodstream. A diet with nutrition from complex carbohydrates, combined with the right amounts of protein, vitamins and minerals should be everyone’s goal.

As you can see, carbohydrates have many jobs to do in our bodies. They affect our energy, performance, and even help us to have the ability to think and stay healthy, by regulating actions within cells.