The Benefits of CARBOHYDRATES
In order to properly function, our bodies require a balance of the three macronutrients: carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Each is essential in our daily diets and work together to keep us healthy and performing at our best. Here we’ll explore carbohydrates.
Why Are Carbohydrates Important?
Carbohydrates are your body’s preferred source of energy. In fact, there are nerve cells in the brain that rely solely on carbohydrates for energy. As an athlete, carbs supply active muscles with fuel and spare muscle protein from being broken down.
How Much Do I Need?
Anywhere from 50-70 percent of your daily calories will come from carbohydrates. Daily intake can range from 5 grams per kilogram body weight for general training to more than 10 grams per kilogram body weight for ultraendurance training. As no two training days are alike, it’s important to adjust the amount and type of carbohydrates you eat on a day-to-day basis based on your goals, sport, and activity level. Be especially cautious of low-carb and no carb diets; restricting carb intake can leave you feeling drained, susceptible to injury and mentally exhausted.
What Are The Sources?
There are two types of carbohydrates: simple and complex. There is a time and a place for each, especially in the athlete’s diet.
Simple carbs provide the body with a quick source of energy. It’s best to eat simple carbs immediately before and during exercise that lasts longer than 60 minutes.
Sources: fruit, juice, milk, sugary cereals, baked goods, honey, sport drinks
Complex carbs break down more slowly and provide the body with a steady source of energy. This is because they are rich in fiber, which will help slow digestion and leave you feeling satisfied. Try to make the majority of your carbs complex and eat them with every meal and most snacks.
Sources: whole grains, bread, rice, pasta, beans, potatoes, corn, peas
Tara Gidus Collingwood is a nationally recognized expert and spokesperson on nutrition, fitness and health promotion. She is currently the nutrition consultant to the USTA National Campus with Andrews Institute and Nemours, the team dietitian for the Orlando Magic NBA team, the nutrition consultant to University of Central Florida Athletic Department and a nutrition and exercise executive coach at the Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute.