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Carbohydrates and Exercise: Why We Need Carbohydrates

May 24, 2022 2 min read

Carbohydrates and Exercise: Why We Need Carbohydrates


Your body needs carbohydrates in order to fuel your muscles. Despite following healthy routines and habits, without the right amount of carbohydrates, you are often left feeling weak and low on energy during workouts. This is because carbohydrates are our primary source of energy. 

What are carbohydrates?

Along with proteins and fats, carbohydrates are also one of the macronutrients that our body needs. The body’s main source of energy is from glucose, which is broken down from carbohydrates. Glucose can either be stored in the liver and muscles for later use or immediately. However, carbohydrates are not created equal. They differ in their structures, which affect the speed of digestion, and the nutrients you get. That means that the type of carbohydrates you consume makes a difference. For example, simple carbohydrates digests quickly and provides you with a small burst of energy, but that energy depletes easily. Complex carbohydrates on the other hand, digests slowly, but provides a steadier supply of energy.   


What are the types of carbohydrates?

There are three types of carbohydrates: starches, fiber, and sugars. 

  • Starches– They are considered complex carbohydrates, which are made up of simple sugars. Starches are broken down by our body to fuel energy. 
  • Fibers– They are considered complex carbohydrates. Eating foods with fiber keep you full. This is because our body is not able to break down most fibers.   
  • Sugars – They are considered simple carbohydrates and can be added to foods. They are found in added sugars in desserts, candy, sodas, etc.

Importance of carbohydrates on exercise

 

  • Prevents muscle breakdown  

Protein and carbohydrates make a great pair. As long as you eat a good amount of carbs, protein can repair and build muscle tissues. 

  • Carbs before a workout boosts performance

Eating carbs 1-2 hours before your work out helps maintain optimal levels of blood glucose and maximises the results of your training. 

  • They accelerate recovery  

Eating carbs after a workout is equally as important as eating carbs before a workout. After a long workout, eating carbohydrates will help you replenish the energy that was used up.   


Foods that have carbohydrates

  • Grains, such as bread, noodles, pasta, oatmeal, quinoa, and rice 
  • Fruits, such as apples, bananas, berries, mangoes, melons, and oranges 
  • Dairy products, such as milk and yoghurt 
  • Legumes, including dried beans, lentils, and peas 
  • Starchy vegetables like corn, carrots, potatoes, sweet potato and peas 

How many carbs should I eat?

The amount can vary from person to person. Multiple factors come into play such as age, sex, lifestyle, dietary restrictions. People should consume 45-65% of their calories from carbohydrates on average daily. However, it is still important to pay attention to which carbs are good to eat. For example, consuming whole grains give you much more nutrients compared to refined grains. Another would be eating foods that are low in fat but high in potassium like beans, lentils, and peas. 

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