CARBOHYDRATES: THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE AWESOME!

CARBOHYDRATES: THE PREFERRED ENERGY SOURCE BY THE BODY 

Emily R Pappas, M.S.


In order to perform well AND recover well, our bodies want the MOST EFFICIENT source of energy: CARBS!

But what does this mean?

THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A “BAD CARB”

THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A “CLEAN CARB”

Literally ALL types of carbohydrates FUEL athletic performance and recovery

The RATE at which this occurs varies depending of the TYPE of carbohydrate we are consuming

 

Which carbs are right FOR YOU at what times? 

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WHAT EVEN IS A CARBOHYDRATE?

Lets keep this simple.  Lets categorize our carbohydrates based on how fast that sugar can enter our blood stream (and be used NOW by our muscles and other cells or stored for later)

(1) SIMPLE CARBS: Enter the blood FAST!!

Cereals
White flour (bagels, breads, pastas)
Baked Potato
jams, fruit spreads
Corn
Candy

(2) COMPLEX CARB: Medium speed carb  (due to fiber slowing it down!)

Sweet potato
Any Fruit
Oatmeal
Whole wheat/ whole grain rice and flour variations 

(3) VEGGIES: SLOW to the part Carb (due to even MORE fiber slowing it down)

Tomatoes
Yellow squash, zucchini
Brussel Sprouts, cabbage
Spinach, arugula, Kale
Sugar Snap Peas
Portabella Mushrooms
Broccoli, Cauliflower 

WHEN SHOULD YOU BE EATING CARBOHYDRATES?

When you are less active, your body requires less carbohydrates at a given movement to fuel your body (as your body turns to fat stores and converts them to sugar to burn)!  During this time, you want to keep the majority of your carbohydrates from complex and veggie sources! (Remember fiber keeps you feeling full and slows the rate sugar enters your blood! This is a good thing! If we bring too much sugar to the blood party when we don’t need it, we store it as fat!)

Before activity, you want to ensure your body is properly equipped to sustain high levels of energy output!  This means a mixture of COMPLEX and SIMPLE Carbs (Remember carbohydrates are the PREFERRED fuel for performance) 

During moderate to high intensity activity (longer than 1 hour; at a pace where it is hard to hold a conversation; moderate to high volume lifts!), your body is in desperate need for that fast acting sugar! By this point all the sugar you have stored in your muscles and the remaining sugar in your blood from your previous meal will be used up! This means,  now is the IDEAL time to have those yummy simple carbs!

–> But don’t I want to use fat stores for energy right now?  The goal is to BURN them off right??????

–> CARBOHYDRATES FUEL PERFORMANCE. And turning fat stores to sugar in the body TAKES TIME. This means when we turn to fat stores at this point, we see decreased performance and slower reaction times.  Definitely not the ideal tactic when we want to perform our best!

Immediately after activity, your muscles are PRIMED to begin the recovery process.  This means we want carbohydrates in your system ASAP!  This is the time you want a good mix of simple and complex! Simple for our needs RIGHT NOW…and complex to make sure our muscles receive the fuel it will need as recovery continues.

Further away from activity, time to pick those high fiber veggies and complex carbs!  As you recover from activity, your body needs carbohydrates to fuel the rebuilding process, but at a slower amount and rate! This is because your body is also able to take the time to convert your fat stores into sugar to help fuel the process:)

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FUN FACT: Carbohydrates are the ONLY FUEL your brain is able to use in order to function!

Low carb or no carb diets are NOT sustainable as you will literally STARVE your brain!!! Talk about brain fog!!!!