Why Carbs are your BFF when working out

Why Carbs are your BFF when working out

Skipping carbohydrates whilst working out is counterproductive to achieving optimal performance and weight loss goals. In fact following a low carb diet such as a Ketogenic diet during physical workouts, deprives the body of essential nutrients and research has shown individuals to experience headaches, gastrointestinal symptoms, general weakness and a negative impact on exercise performance. Yeah, no thanks.

When eating a well balanced diet your body usually stores up to 500g of glucose, however it stores up to 98% of fat intake, into our adipose tissues or fat cells.

When you consume carbohydrates, your body converts them to glucose, then to glycogen. In glucose form, it stays in your blood to fuel your activity and metabolism. If there’s any left over, it goes to your liver and muscles, where it’s stored as glycogen. For this reason, our bodies will always need and use carbohydrates first rather than fat as it’s ‘premium fuel’.

Intense aerobic activity for an hour decreases up to 55% liver glycogen and 2 hours exercise depletes both the liver and muscle fibers glycogen content. So as you can see, carbohydrates are needed to provide energy and with a proper physical workout, it doesn’t take long to burn most of our body glucose!

Complex carbohydrates are found in foods such as pasta, bagels, whole grain breads, and rice. They provide energy, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. These foods are low in fat.

Simple sugars, such as soft drinks, jams and lollies provide a lot of kilojoules, but they do not provide vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. What matters most is the total amount of carbohydrates eaten each day. A little more than half of kJ’s should come from carbohydrates eg carbs 75-100% protein 25% is required for cardio training.

Given that carbohydrates metabolize into glucose (energy) quickly, it is recommended to consume 30 minutes – 1 hour prior to cardio or strength training.

Carbohydrates are necessary before exercise if duration is for more than 1 hour. A glass of fruit juice, a tub (250mL) of yogurt, or wholemeal bread with banana or honey.

Low GI carbs release glucose into the body slowly and contain more essential nutrients eg fibre. Low GI Foods include whole grains, vegetables, fruit and beans, egg white omelette spinach wholegrain toast and skim or soy milk. If working out before breakfast or in between main meals a small snack prior to cardio will help to boost blood sugar. For example a bowl of wholegrain cereal with raisins, walnuts, skim milk, honey or protein powder smoothie with fruit or tub of yogurt, banana, nuts, honey or pita bread with scrambled egg white in pita bread and sliced apple.

Consuming carbohydrates during exercise is important if you are doing more than an hour of intense aerobic exercise. You can meet your energy needs with:
150-300 mL’s of an electrolyte beverage (coconut water) every 15 to 20 minutes
Two to three handfuls of wholegrain crackers
One-half to two-thirds cup (40-55 grams) of low-fat muesli

After exercise, eating carbohydrates helps to rebuild the stores of energy in muscles especially for heavy work outs. When exercising or training for more than 90 minutes, you should eat or drink more carbohydrates, possibly with protein, 2 hours later. This includes trail mix with nuts, a muesli bar or muesli with yogurt and fruit. For workouts lasting less than 60 minute, water is all that is needed during and after physical activity.

So next time you’re ready to smash it with your next work out, let carbs be the number 1 BFF they’re meant to be. Stay tuned for proteins role in working out!

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