How your body converts carbohydrates into energy – Lose 20 pounds in a month diet plan

carbohydrates for energy

Macronutrients, proteins and fats are all broken down in the digestive system so that the body can use them for energy. Once digested, energy is sent throughout the body wherever it is needed.

How macronutrients are broken down and converted into energy is a complicated process, but here are the basic steps that take into account how your body converts carbohydrates into energy.

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Carbohydrates are found in fruits, vegetables, grains and other starches. Carbohydrate digestion actually starts in the mouth. Saliva enzymes begin to break down carbohydrates. Carbohydrates travel through the esophagus, stomach and enter the small intestine.

In the small intestine, carbohydrates are further broken down into single carbohydrate units called monosaccharides. These unique molecules are absorbed through the intestinal wall and sent through the bloodstream. Carbohydrates in the blood are in the form of a monosaccharide called glucose.

The more carbohydrates consumed at a time, the more glucose will be released into the bloodstream after digestion.

In blood

When blood glucose levels are high, like in the afternoon, the body sends a message to the pancreas to release the hormone insulin. Insulin acts as a gateway to the body’s cells. Without insulin, glucose cannot enter the cells to be used for energy.

When cells do not respond to insulin or the pancreas stops producing insulin with diabetes, the body’s cells cannot receive glucose into the cell. Therefore, the cells will have no energy.

In the muscle cell

When glucose is now in the cell, due to insulin, glucose can go through metabolic pathways to be broken down for energy or stored for later use. For the cell to use glucose for energy, it must be converted to adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP is the “currency” of money that the cell uses as energy.

Glucose has 2 different metabolic pathways through which it can pass, depending on the needs of the cell. For example, during intense and short exercises, glucose can give energy to muscle cells by anaerobic glycolysis (breakdown of glucose). The pathway provides fast ATP from glucose and also produces lactic acid as a byproduct.

For longer duration, lower intensity exercises, glucose can be broken down by aerobic glycolysis. This process produces more ATP production for the cell, but it takes longer.

If energy is not needed immediately for the muscles, the cell can store glucose. Glucose molecules stored in muscle or liver tissue are called glycogen. As the muscle cell needs energy, the glycogen will be broken down and go through anaerobic or aerobic glycolysis.

Muscle cells rely on carbohydrates for energy, but other cells in the body can use carbohydrates for energy with the same metabolic pathways.

The liver

After a meal, glucose is sent to the liver. The liver can also store glucose molecules in the form of glycogen, such as muscle cells. The liver can use glucose for energy through glycolysis. Glucose can also be stored as fat if glucose is not needed for energy.

What happens when the glucose level is low?

The main role of carbohydrates in the body is for energy, and blood glucose levels are closely regulated by the body. When the blood glucose level drops too much, the hormone glucagon is released to increase the blood glucose level.

When blood glucose levels become too low, this is a signal that stored carbohydrates, glycogen, need to be broken down to increase blood glucose levels to normal.

Glucagon will act on muscle and liver glycogen to break down glucose molecules. These molecules enter the bloodstream and can travel where they are needed for energy in the body.

When blood glucose levels are low, it is also a physiological signal to eat. Many people can feel when they have low blood sugar and this is how the body tries to renew its energy reserves.

When you spend long periods of time without eating or watching low carb diet, the body can produce carbohydrates from protein or fat. This process is called ketosis and can have unpleasant side effects such as weakness, fatigue, bad breath or headaches.

The brain and central nervous system use carbohydrates as the only source of energy. Therefore, it is important for the body to be able to produce carbohydrates when they are not enough in the diet or for long periods of semi-hunger. However, long-term ketosis could have potential negative side effects.


Carbohydrates are a major source of energy for the body; they can be metabolized into ATP quickly or slowly depending on the body’s needs. Insulin brings blood glucose into the cells to be used for energy. The cell can either use it immediately for energy or store it for later use.

When blood sugar drops too much, the hormone glucagon regulates blood sugar levels by stimulating the breakdown of glycogen. Blood sugar is closely regulated, and when there are factors that affect the regulation of glucose, such as diabetes, energy levels can suffer.

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