Sugar vs Starch - Does it make a difference?


Sugar has been in the press quite a bit lately, accused of being the main suspect behind the exponential rise in metabolic syndrome (obesity, diabetes, heart disease) over the past 3 decades, and rightly so. 

As a result, there are massive anti-sugar campaigns globally in an attempt to combat and reverse this trend, again, rightly so. This creates opportunities for companies making artificial sweeteners, creating a new myth in the process, but that's a subject for another post. 

All well and good, but this has created the misconception that "carbs in abundance are ok, it's just sugar that's bad for weight management and health". 

Here's the thing though: sugar gets digested into glucose and hits your bloodstream within 5min of consumption. Complex carbs (starches) get digested into that same glucose and hit your blood stream anywhere between 1-2 hours. 

So: unless you're using up that glucose within those 2 hours, most of it will get converted to fat! You see it doesn't matter where it comes from (sugar or starch), glucose is glucose. 

So what do you mean "using up that glucose"?!

Well there are 2 ways of doing that:

1. You've exercised BEFORE eating carbs, so your glycogen stores (where you can store glucose in your liver and muscles) have been emptied, so the glucose from food will replenish them (and not get converted to fat). 

2. You're eating those carbs "during" exercise, so you're using up glycogen and filling back up at the same time. 

So: it doesn't matter whether you eat sugar or complex carbs, unless you're doing it after (ideally) or during (less ideal) exercise, they both get converted to glucose and then stored as fat. 

One of many reasons why I never have carbs for breakfast...

(I've written extensively about carbs, glycemic index etc on my blog, just search for carbs using the search box at