Due to the advent of low-carb diets, many people have placed carbohydrates on their no-eat lists. Somewhere along the line, it became popular to believe that the only way to eat “healthy” is to eliminate carbs. As a fitness expert, I’m here to tell you that if your goal is to have an athletic performance lifestyle then you should include carbs in your diet. Read on as I breakdown carbohydrates to show you what your body does with them and why they are essential.
When you eat carbohydrates, these fundamental macronutrients are broken down into a form of glucose in the blood. Carbs are also stored as glycogen, which is the ultimate fuel for muscle performance. The chemical digestion of carbohydrates begins immediately in the mouth by enzymes present in the saliva. In the stomach, long chains of glucose that makeup starch are further broken down. The stomach then allows glucose to enter the bloodstream. Once in the intestines, fructose and glucose absorption will occur at their respective rates – with glucose being used up faster than fructose.
Fuel for Your Muscles
When complex carbohydrates are eaten, there will be short chains of glucose polymers in the intestines and will slowly release glucose for an hour or two. This release of glucose is super beneficial for the athlete, as this provides a prolonged supply of glucose to the bloodstream and nutritional energy which will further spare and replenish muscle glycogen.
This is important because glycogen is found in all cells in muscle fibers and also in the liver. Glycogen supply in the liver is used to regulate glucose blood levels. Due to the small amount of storage capacity the human body has for glycogen, it is crucial for a balanced supply of carbohydrates throughout the day. This refuels the body’s limited glycogen supply needed for peak performance.
Carbohydrates = Brainfood
The glucose that is fed into the bloodstream is a source of energy for the brain. To operate swiftly, the brain can use over 400 calories per day of glucose from liver glycogen. Athletes and those who are physically active and encounter the feeling of being bogged down or agitated should note that this could be due to low levels of liver glycogen from not eating enough carbs.
It should be noted that glycogen is stored together with water. One gram of glycogen is stored with about 3 grams of water. This means that when glycogen is used, water weight is lost in the process and vice versa when glycogen is loaded. This is the reason we fill out and look full from water storage when glycogen is replenished.
When to Eat or Not to Eat?
Understanding what kind of carb and how much of each kind to intake at what time is crucial to ultimate performance. You’ll get more out of your workouts, feel better and maintain consistent results. Varying body types, metabolisms, and activity levels require different degrees of carbohydrate intake to achieve desired results. For an in-depth look into your individual needs as an athlete, contact me directly at josh[at]hardlife[dot]com
I can also help you determine if you could benefit from any of the amazing Betancourt Nutrition products, which help athletes to fuel their muscles throughout their workouts and for muscle recovery post workout. You can find Betancourt Nutrition products at many online stores. Click here to find out where to buy my favorite brand in sports nutrition products.