Today we are going to discuss everyone’s favorite energy source, carbohydrates! There are an abundance of different carbohydrate options out there and most of us have a list of favorites. From sweet potatoes to Snickers bars, most of us love a good carb. However, even though we love our carbs, most people view them in a negative light. Carbs and fats are blamed for any unwanted body fat we put on, and rightly so. However, when properly used, carbs are an amazing tool that can be utilized by everyone! So, in the following paragraphs we are going to define the differences in carbs and how they should be used to our benefit and not our aesthetic demise.
What are Carbohydrates?
If a brick is a workout, carbohydrates are the cement that give a workout value. By itself, a brick is a doorstop at best, but together, bricks and cement can build anything. As the past metaphor hints, carbohydrates are the macronutrient that helps athletes the most with regulating energy level issues, muscle retention/ muscle growth, and recovery. Carbs will give exercise value and after breaking your body down, carbs will work to put you back together stronger. Carbs will provide active persons with the necessary calories to perform and recover to the best of their ability before and after exercise. However, it is important to know which carbs to eat and when.
Simple and Complex Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates are broken into two categories: simple carbs and complex carbs. The difference between a simple and complex carb is how they are digested and affect our blood sugar. Simple carbs will affect insulin levels in our body much more directly. This is good for recovery after workouts, not for stagnation as it leads to fat retention. Complex carbs have less effect on insulin levels and are great in small amounts, spread out over the course of each meal. Complex carbs used correctly are ideal for fueling you through your day to day life, even if you are not an active person. To reiterate, fat and carbs don’t make you fat, but if both are ingested in excess, you’ll quickly lose sight of your toes.
Timing with carbs is extremely important. Please be sure to ingest some form of simple carbohydrate immediately following exercise (within the first 90 mins) (simple carb list below). This is imperative to ensure athletes are spiking their insulin levels and feeding their muscles with the most potent, quick-digesting carbohydrates. This is key.
Outside the 2hr window of exercise, you are better suited to ingest mostly complex carbs as they will digest more slowly and help fuel you throughout the day. To be more clear, I have listed BASIC AND GENERAL prescriptions for most athletes below. There are also some examples of simple and complex carbs listed as well.
Non-Active Women and Men: .5 to no more than 1g of carbs per 1 LB. of bodyweight
Active Men and Women:
**This is a complicated question, however for simplicity sake, we will pretend everyone wants to stay the same size. So, attempt to eat 1.5- 2g of carbs per 1 lb. of bodyweight per day.
Simple Carbs: The Cement for Your Muscles After Workouts
Any other sugary stuff
**The body will use these carbs immediately after exercise within a 90min time frame. The quicker the better though (I aim to have my simple carbs within 15-30mins). Take this time to indulge in your bad cravings- i.e. candy bars, ice cream, pie, etc.
Whole Grain Bread
There you go! Focus on the quality of your foods and when you do plan to indulge, focus on your timing of those tasty treats and they can actually be beneficial to your physique! Have fun and enjoy!