NASM CNC Chapter 7: Carbohydrates

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    Chapter Goals:

    • Explain the function and the structure of carbs.
    • Discuss the absorption and digestion of carbs.
    • Discuss the role hormones play in regulating blood sugar levels.
    • Know the carb metabolism pathway.
    • Find the requirements for total daily carbohydrates.
    • Discuss the role dietary fiber plays.
    • Find the myths that relate to carbohydrates.


    Carbs are often called starches or sugars, or also complex and simple carbohydrates. 

    Some normal starches we see are grains, wheat, veggies, barley, rice, and corn.

    Some normal sugars that we see are sweets, sugar, fruits, and milk. 

    Besides both lactose and glycogen, all carbs are going to come from plants. They are considered the primary fuel for the body, but they are victimized due to their role in weight gain. 

    Carbohydrate Structure

    These carbohydrates are often put into their scientific classifications of mono, di, and polysaccharides. Monosaccharides are single sugar units. Disaccharides are paired up units of sugar. And then the polysaccharides are the longer sugar unit chains. Oligosaccharides are sugar units that are 3 – 10 units long. 


    Again, these are the sugars that are made of one single unit of sugar. They are the most basic, and actually the only form of carbohydrate that is absorbable into the body. So, the bigger sugars need to be broken down to get to this form for their use.

    The important monosaccharides for humans are glucose, fructose, and galactose. 


    Like the monosaccharides, we call the disaccharides simple sugars also. These are the sugars that contain two pairs of sugar units.

    The three important disaccharides are sucrose, lactose, and maltose. These are different combinations of glucose with either glucose or another simple sugar added with it. 


    These are much less discussed than the other three categories of carbohydrates. these sugars contain 3 – 10 sugar units. 


    These are our complex sugars and they include the starches, glycogen, and the fibers we take in. these sugar units contain more than 10 units, and maybe as much as a few thousand sugar units. 

    These polysaccharides can be straight chain structures that are called amylose, and they may be branched structures called amylopectin, and lastly they may be fiber. 


    Fiber represents more indigestible parts of plants, but it is not one single type of compound. These groups of compounds share characteristics with each other, and they are considered soluble or insoluble fiber. 

    Soluble fiber is a type of dietary fiber that will dissolve into water and then form a type of gel. This type is often associated with many heart health benefits and the control of glucose. It also can see increases in intestinal health, protection from diabetes, and potentially some weight loss.

    Insoluble fibers are the second form of fiber we take in. These are fibers that do not dissolve in water at all, and they are most associated with regularity of bowel movements. They also are seen with relation to reduced cancer risks, weight loss, and health of your digestive system.

    A functional fiber is one compound that comes from isolated, non-digestible carbs that might provide a benefit psychologically.


    The storage form of glucose in all animals. This is like starch that is the storage form in carbs. This large molecule has a pinwheel orientation that is centered on a core made from protein, and this may range from 100 to somewhere near 30,000 units of glucose. There is no fructose in the glycogen molecules, only glucose. 

    Glycogenolysis is the process of breaking down the molecules of glycogen into their own glucose molecules in order to use them in their energy pathway when needed. 

    Glycogenesis is the actual process of making glycogen molecules from glucose molecules being put together. 

    We store the vast majority of the glycogen in our body within our muscles. This is because, in this location we are most likely to use and have a need for glycogen. We often use this model for more intense physical activity. The liver is the next biggest storage area for glycogen in the body. And lastly, the blood glucose contains some glycogen molecules for quick transport and for basic ready usage. 

    Summary of Carbohydrate Classifications

    The carbs essentially follow a system of classification where they are just classified based on how many sugar units there are in the compound. We ingest a large amount of carbs in our diet of varying types, and it is important to also know that when we absorb the sugar into the body, we do this with the simple sugars. These are the monosaccharides. 

    Carbohydrate Roles Within the Body

    The main role for all carbs that enter the body is to provide us with energy we need immediately, and then if not used, it is be stored for energy production later in the muscles and the liver. This is due to the liver being able to circulate glucose and insulin metabolism helping to manage everything. 

    Triglycerides are the form of fats that are stored. The excess carbs are stored as this. These triglycerides are the main storage and the transportable form of the fats in the body. They are made up of free fatty acids that are bound to a glycerol backbone.

    Ketones are groups of fat fragments that are not completely metabolized and are usually made during fat metabolism in the absence of the proper amount of carbs.

    Gluconeogenesis is a metabolic pathway where the result is the making of glucose from carbon substrates other than carbohydrates like lactate, glycerol, and glucogenic amino acids.

    Carbohydrate Digestion and Absorption

    This begins in the mouth like it does for all food items and drinks. The mouth emits salivary amylase in the saliva which is an enzyme that begins this digestion and breakdown process. The salivary amylase works to cleave off the large chain polysaccharides into smaller parts. Chewing of course also aids in this along with the addition of adding fluid volume to the food. The surface area of the food products is increased through those processes. The small round food that we swallow is known as a bolus. The stomach is the next location of the digestion and this sees the gastric juices and the high acid content continuing the breakdown. The food then leaves and enters the small intestine, where chyme is neutralized by things released from the pancreas and digestion moves forward in the jejunum. Here, the carbohydrates reach their mono and disaccharide forms and then the majority will be taken into the body in the ileum. The absorbed cells enter the hepatic portal vein and are transported to the liver, and then serve the purpose they are meant for. This is either through use as immediate energy, or storage. 

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    Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease is the development of a fatty liver that results from a large amount of fats coming from something other than intake of alcohol. 

    Hormonal Regulation of Glucose

    We have two main hormones that are used for the preservation of blood glucose:

    Insulin is made in the pancreas and it is used for preventing hyperglycemia by lowering the level of blood sugars and facilitating glucose to be taken into the fat cells, muscle, and the liver. So, all together we have insulin escorting the glucose back to the liver, muscle, and fat cells.

    Glucagon is the other vital hormone for glucose regulation. This is also released by the pancreas. It serves essentially the opposing role to the insulin in the body. This means it prevents hypoglycemia by raising the blood glucose level. Glycolysis and gluconeogenesis is promoted, along with the inhibition of lipogenesis. 

    During Exercise

    When exercising, the regulation of blood sugar via hormones is a tad more complex. Norepinephrine and epinephrine that are in circulation will bind to the receptors and inhibit the production of insulin for the body. 

    All of the hormones here will increase in order for the stimulation of glycogenolysis and glucose to be released from the liver and into the blood. This allows more energy to be available for use in exercise. 

    Glycemic Index

    The glycemic index is a ranking of the effect a food has on blood glucose levels two hours following the consumption of it. The score is assigned based on a 100 representing glucose. The reference food would be like a 50 being a food that gives half the amount of blood glucose elevation of glucose. 

    Current Versus Recommended Intakes

    The RDA for carbs for adult that are over 19 years of age is 130 grams per day. This is the minimum that is needed for normal metabolism and the use of fuels. 

    Current Intakes

    The average intake is 47.4 – 49.6 % of total calories for men and women, in that order.

    Current Recommendations

    Again, the RDA is 130 grams per day. And the percent of total calories that carbs should represent is 45 – 65%. 

    NASM CNC Chapter 7: Carbohydrates 1
    NASM CNC Chapter 7: Carbohydrates 2
    NASM CNC Chapter 7: Carbohydrates 3

    About The Author

    2 thoughts on “NASM CNC Chapter 7: Carbohydrates”

    1. Is there somewhere that I can get a printable or pdf version of your study guide for the NASM CNC material? This online reading is frustrating.

      1. Hi Ariel,
        The material can be printed out. You can also find the NASM exam cheat sheet for free here. Courtesy of Trainer Academy. I wish you all the best with the studying and becoming a personal trainer.

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