The Role of Carbohydrates during Exercise

Carbohydrates play a key role within physical activity by providing energy to the body, brain and muscles. Athletes or anyone taking part in any physical activity needs to ensure they are consuming a large amount of carbohydrates within their diets. If someone does not consume enough carbs it is likely that performance levels and recovery may become impaired.

What are carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates are one of the main three macronutrients we need to consume every day, together with protein and good fats. The main three types of carbohydrates are starch, fibre and sugar. Starch carbohydrates are more so known as complex carbs, these are food types such as potatoes, corn and starchy vegetables. Natural and added sugar foods are known as simple carbs, these can be found in food and drinks such as milk, honey, sweets, sugary drinks and syrups.

Why do we need carbohydrates and how does it aid in exercise performance?

It is imperative to our bodies that we consume carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are stored in the muscles and liver as glycogen. Carbohydrates are one of the main sources of energy for our body to function, carbs are broken down and digested into a small molecule called glucose. This is used for fuel and is stored within muscles. The glucose energy molecule aids in delaying the onset of fatigue and help with muscular endurance. Carbohydrates also aid in muscular growth alongside protein and fats (macronutrients) which is so important to athletes to grow in their athletic
performance. Glycogen stores can be limited, so if a person is training and partaking in high intense physical activity, our bodies will need carbohydrate stores to fuel the body, ensuring an individual has increased energy levels. Glycogen is the main source of energy for quick bursts of physical activity and exercise, this keeps people motivated and full of energy. If these stores are low during exercise a person may become fatigued very quickly, lacking overall energy and unable to perform at the best of your ability at the highest standard. It is so important for a person to consume the right amount of carbohydrates to aid in exercise performance. If you are a person who is active and performs the recommended amount of exercise per week, healthy eating and carbohydrate intake is a necessity. Carbohydrate intake doesn’t have to always be food intake, you could have energy drinks and carbohydrate supplements (especially if you are trying to control weight).

Good sources of carbohydrates

  • Quinoa, Wheat, Pasta, Rice
  • Oats, yoghurt
  • Banana
  • Potatoes / Bread
  • Apples
  • Carrots
  • Corn
  • Whole grains
  • Vegetables

As you can see carbohydrates are a key compenent of any diet or nutrition plan. We should not be cutting food groups out of our nutrition plans as they all plan a significant role! So if you are in need of support or advice by qualified nutritionists who won’t feed you down the wrong path, then contact us today for more information.