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Carbohydrates…Friend or Foe?

In a society where we are quick to idolize and demonize different foods or exercises as they pertain to our health and fitness woes, it is important to take a little time to get the real dish on nutrition and what foods are really doing to and for your body. You may have heard that the carbohydrates and fat you consume will turn into fat in your body, though this is partially true, it is only PARTIALLY true.
Eating any food that provides calories (i.e. carbohydrates, fat, protein or alcohol) in excess will lead to your body to storing those extra calories as fat. However, all the calorie-providing foods listed above (excluding alcohol) can also be utilized in different cell structures in your body for cellular repair, restoration and maintenance.
For brevity’s sake, carbohydrates will be the focus of this article.¬†Carbohydrates are necessary for proper and efficient functioning of every human body. All energy producing cells in the body run on carbohydrates. The body breaks down carbohydrates to produce energy for the body. Your brain’s choice of fuel is carbohydrates, and your muscles need carbohydrates to function and in order to break down fat.
Carbohydrates are stored in human muscle tissue as the molecule glycogen, which is utilized during normal activity and exercise as efficient fuel for the muscles. Having large stores of glycogen in the muscles prevents muscle soreness and fatigue with exercise. Carbohydrates are preferentially stored in the muscles when the body has high levels of insulin, such as immediately following a bout of exercise. Therefore, by consuming high glycemic index carbohydrates (see table 1) within 30 minutes of exercise, you are maximizing the storage of energy in your muscles for your next round of exercise. By storing more glycogen, your body is able to work harder and longer, therefore allowing you to burn more fat and build more muscle and improve your overall body composition.
After exercise is the best time for high-glycemic index carbohydrate, but the rest of the time our bodies run best on low-glycemic index (Low-GI) carbohydrates, such as those listed in table 1. Low-GI carbohydrates provide the body with sustained energy throughout the day because they are composed of longer chains of sugars than their high-glycemic counterparts and take longer for the body to break down and use. Low-GI carbohydrates also contain fiber which keeps you fuller longer and can help prevent colon-cancer by increasing transit time of food through the gut. Another benefit of low-GI carbohydrates is that they help regulate blood sugar because they do not cause a severe spike in insulin as do high-GI carbohydrates. With regard to the timing of consuming low-GI carbohydrates in an exercise program, the best time is about 3 hours prior to the exercise bout. By taking in low-GI carbs 3 hours before exercise, your body has time to store the carbohydrates as glycogen in your muscles and to prevent any gastrointestinal distress that could be caused by having food in your stomach or intestines during exercise.
Practically speaking, this type of nutrition timing could look like having a bowl of oatmeal in the morning before your workout and a granola bar or energy bar after your workout Or you could have a bowl of rice and beans for lunch and a banana or bottle of chocolate milk after your evening or afternoon workout. And for those of you with a sweet tooth like me, save your cookies or chocolate for after your workout so as not to let your cravings sabotage your hard work.
In a nutshell, carbohydrates are very good for your body and are a necessary and beneficial part of a healthy diet that is also rich in fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and unsaturated fats. Yes, carbohydrates are indeed our friend and not our foe.
Sources:
Westcott, Wayne L.”Enhancing Resistance Training Results With Protein/Carbohydrate Supplementation.”
ACSM’s Health and Fitness Journal.¬† March/April 2013. Vol 17, No. 2. Print.
From: Fitness Proaction Newsletter June 2013
Categorized: June 2013 , Newsletter Articles , Nutrition , Post-Exercise , Pre-Exercise , Sports Nutrition
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