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Anabolic & Catabolic Processes of Carbohydrates

By Brandon Dotson

When dietitians and nutritionists refer to weight loss and weight management, they often discuss the concept of metabolism in simple terms. But metabolism is actually a complex concept that refers to how cells acquire, transform, store and use energy. Carbohydrates undergo anabolism and catabolism, the two main processes of metabolism.


Carbohydrates are macronutrients, and their main function is to provide energy. Carbs are classified as simple or complex. Simple carbohydrates digest rapidly, whereas complex carbohydrates digest slowly. All carbohydrates are broken down to glucose -- or blood sugar, according to PubMed Health.


Catabolism is a metabolic process in which complex biomolecules, such as carbohydrates, are broken into simpler molecules that release energy in the form of adenosine triphosphate, or ATP. Your body breaks carbs into sugar molecules known as monosaccharides. Mosaccharides are then catabolized to glucose, which enters the bloodstream after it's absorbed, according to the Elmhurst College Virtual Chembook website.


Anabolism is the metabolic process in which large molecules are synthesized from simpler molecules. Liver and muscle cells use the simple molecule glucose to form glycogen, a large complex molecule. Glycogen stores glucose molecules and releases them when your blood-sugar levels drop below normal. This helps to normalize blood-sugar levels, according to the Elmhurst College Virtual Chembook.


Although anabolism and catabolism are opposing processes, they take place simultaneously in the production of ATP. Without anabolism and catabolism, carbohydrates can’t be broken down and used for energy.

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