Breaking Down Carbohydrates
Updated: Aug 1
What are carbohydrates and how can you use them to help you and your health and fitness goals.
by Curtis Gee 08/01/2022
In the world of health and fitness, there will always be people who will tell you one thing is the worst ever and another will solve all your problems, even when neither case is true. Over the last couple of decades, there have been professionals who would tell you that lifting weights hinders performance, fat makes you fat, and doing sit ups will give you six pack abs, all false claims.
One of the biggest victims of such allegations are carbohydrates. While carbs are often cited as a reason for difficulty in weight loss, they are not a sole culprit. In fact they are part of a healthy, balanced diet that can aid in weight loss and exercise performance.
Carbohydrates provide our bodies with glycogen (our most immediate source of energy) and the dietary fiber we need for our digestive health. Depending on when and how much we intake, carbohydrates can have many benefits for our health and fitness goals.
Before Exercise: Eating carbs 1 - 2 hours before exercising will provide your body with a source of fast digesting energy. This will give you the energy you need for a one to two hour exercise session without making you feel too full to workout. Example: Eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich an hour before a basketball game.
During Exercise: Having carbohydrates in a more digestible form (such as a sports drink) can provide your body with energy during more intense workouts. Example: Drinking a sports drink during rest periods of HIIT class.
Post Exercise: Intaking a well balanced meal that includes carbohydrates after an exercise session can help replenish glycogen stores used during the workout and prepare your body for the next session. Example: Eating a shrimp, pasta, and broccoli dish after a workout session.
Preparing For Extended Exercise: When preparing for extended exercise sessions(such as a marathon), many participants will carb-load over the course of a week, making sure to get the proper amount of carbohydrates in to ensure they have the glycogen stores for their event. The amount they intake will depend on the person’s size. Example: Eating a variety of pasta and rice dishes the week before a marathon.
Weight Loss and Body Composition: While carbohydrates have taken the blame for weight loss issues over the last handful of years, they are part of a balanced diet that can lead to weight loss and muscle gain. It is going to be more important to make sure to eat quality food and move everyday than to focus on one nutrient when trying to change how your body looks and feels.
Carbohydrates in general are not the nutritional issue that many people would have you believe. They are, in fact, an important part of fueling your body and, along with the proper amounts of fat and protein, create a balanced diet that can help you hit your health and fitness goals.
Written by Curtis Gee, Elite Personal Trainer
Curtis has been teaching, coaching, and educating since before he could drive. Starting with youth and high school sports, leading to teaching and helping at-risk high schoolers graduate, to most recently, working with athletes and adults to achieve their health, fitness, and sporting goals.
When not at the gym training others or working on his own fitness, Curtis is an avid gamer, basketball junkie, and enjoys martial arts movies.