The Atkins diet popularised the myth that Carbohydrates are bad for you. This could not be further from the truth. Carbohydrates are an important part of a healthy diet. Carbohydrates role is to provide energy for the body and it is the bodies main source of energy. Carbohydrate is needed for brain function, physical activity and for the operation of the vital organs. The cells in the body use Carbohydrates and they are important for intestinal health.
Once your bodies immediate fuel requirements are met Carbohydrates are stored in the form of Glycogen for later use. Some of this Glycogen is stored in the muscles, some in the Liver. This storage allows a constant supply of energy throughout the day.
If your body doesn’t get enough Carbohydrate to meet its needs it will break down Protein in the muscles through Gluconeogenesis. This process converts Protein into Sugar and results in less muscle mass. This is not the bodies preferred way of obtaining Sugar in the form of Glucose. The body prefers Carbohydrate.
Fuel for Exercise:
Your muscles use Glycogen for fuel during exercise. The more exercise you perform the more Carbohydrates your muscles need.
The Best type of Carbohydrates:
The best form of Carbohydrates you can have are unprocessed, wholegrain foods, fruits, vegetables and pulses. In their natural form Carbohydrates are high in Fibre Vitamins, Minerals and a host of important phytonutrients.
Minimise your intake of processed Carbohydrates such as soft drinks, sweets and cakes as these can lead to weight gain. Also minimise Fat Free foods as these usually have the fat replaced with processed sugar.
The Role of Carbohydrates in Sports Nutrition:
Carbohydrate is the most useful energy source for athletes of all sports. It doesn’t matter if the athlete is a Sprinter, Weightlifter, Marathon runner or even a Decathlete. Carbohydrates provide energy for the muscles in the form of Glycogen. A lack of Carbohydrates in the diet will reduce the athlete’s performance as they will feel tired and lethargic. They will not have enough energy to perform at their best. A steady intake of Carbohydrate throughout the day will ensure performance is not compromised.
It doesn’t matter if you are an athlete or an everyday person. Carbohydrates should form a large part of your daily nutrition intake. Remember to keep processed foods to a minimum and focus on eating as much natural food as possible.