To Carb or Not to Carb? That’s the question
To start with carbohydrates are the body’s preferred energy source and it is a myth that carbohydrates make you fat or gain weight. When it comes to weight gain, research has not confirmed that increased carbohydrate type or consumption leads to increased weight (when overall caloric consumption is maintained). Time and time again, research indicates that it does not matter where the calories come from, it only matters how many total calories a person consumes in a day. If dieters eat fewer calories than they expend – whether those calories come from carbohydrates, protein, or fat – they will lose weight.
Also, to spare protein and inhibit gluconeogenesis, that is the formation for glucose from non-carbohydrate sources such as protein and fat, it is crucial that an athlete consume enough carbohydrates to fuel performance and replenish glycogen stores. Athletes who do not consume sufficient carbohydrates to replenish glycogen stores will not likely be able to work at an optimal performance level.
Athletes need the right types and amounts of food before, during, and after exercise to maximize the energy available to fuel optimal performance. Typically these foods need to be high in carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are readily and efficiently broken down by the body to the monosaccharide glucose, the body’s preferred energy source. During exercise when energy is needed, glucose that is stored in muscle floating in the bloodstream and/or stored in the liver can be directed to the working cell where: it is converted into ATP. Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is the body’s usable energy source. ATP is used for all processes that require energy, including metabolism, muscle contraction, heart pumping, and many other demands required for exercise performance.
When dieters strictly restrict carbohydrates and lose large amounts of weight shortly after starting the diet, most of this weight loss comes from loss of water. Glycogen requires water for storage. When these glycogen stores are broken down in response to carbohydrate deprivation, the body excretes water. In the long term, there is no difference in sustained weight loss in dieters on low-carbohydrates versus high- carbohydrate diets. However, low-carbohydrate diets usually result in less than optimal performance and potential nutrient deficiencies.
All Carbs are not created equal
A growing body of research does however support that eating carbohydrates with lower glycemic index (GI) and lower glycemic load (GL) may offer health benefits including weight control, decreased risk of diabetes, decreased risk of heart disease and reduced morbidity in individuals with those and similar chronic diseases. Furthermore, these foods are often nutrient dense and provide more nutrients per calorie. Also, another important consideration regarding carbohydrate quality is the fiber content of the food. Fiber serves many important and beneficial roles in the body so consuming foods with higher fiber content may also offer health benefits.Generally speaking, high-GI foods are good for refueling and athletic performance, but as far as heart health goes, higher fiber and lower GI foods may be a better choice. The goal is to find a balance. Read the blog on Carbohydrate Quality for more information related to GI, GL and Fiber as well as a few charts and tables showing the GI, GL and Fiber content of typical foods.
Eat Great Carbs Cause They’re great!
Coach Tim Garret