Carbs, or carbohydrates, are sugars present in the food you eat and the beverages you drink. Some carbs are found naturally in foods. Other foods have added carbs in the form of extra sugar. Carbs are used by your body to make glucose. Glucose is a sugar that the cells in your body use to give you energy. Some carbs are stored in your liver and muscles for later use, but there are certain carbs your body uses immediately. These are known as fast-acting carbs.
Fast-Acting Carbs Found Naturally in Foods
Fast-acting carbs are found naturally in dairy products and fruits. Dairy products contain lactose or milk sugar, and galactose. Fruits and fruit juices contain fructose. Low-fat milk, fruit juice and dried fruits act quickly to raise your blood sugar levels.
Fast-Acting Carbs Added to Foods for Flavor
Fast-acting carbs or simple sugars are sometimes added to food during processing. You can find these sugars listed on the food label. Foods that contain added sugar in the form of simple carbs include cakes, pies, cookies, condensed milk, candy, pudding, gelatin desserts, canned fruits, soft drinks and some fruit juices. Added fast-acting carbs listed on food labels include high-fructose corn syrup, dextrose, sucrose, corn sweetener and corn syrup.
Fast-Acting Carbs and Diabetes
If you have diabetes, you can treat hypoglycemia or a low blood sugar with fast-acting carbs. Examples of foods you can use to treat hypoglycemia quickly include five to six LifeSaver candies, 4 to 6 oz. of regular soda, 4 to 6 oz. of orange juice, 2 tbsp. of raisins, or 8 oz. of nonfat or low-fat milk. Each of these serving sizes provides 10 to 15 g of fasting-acting carbs. This amount is usually sufficient to treat hypoglycemia resulting from having waited too long in between meals and snacks or from insufficient carbohydrate intake at mealtime. If you have diabetes, a registered dietitian can help you plan your meals and snacks.
Fast-Acting Carbs and Competitive Running
Since your muscles use carbs as fuel, if you run competitively or do strenuous aerobic exercise, you may need a higher amount of fast-acting carbs than if you are treating diabetic hypoglycemia. According to Competitor, an online source for runners, a whole banana, a fruit yogurt or a high-carb energy bar may offer the fast-acting carbs your muscles need, before, during and after exercise.