By: Matt Luongo, MAEd, RDN, CSSD, CDN
There is a lot of nutrition misinformation in the world, and carbs in particular often get a bad rep. Carbohydrates are often portrayed as unhealthy and even unnecessary in the diet. Today, we dispel some of these myths and teach you how to use carbs as a tool to improve your athletic performance.
Myth: Carbs are bad for you.
Fact: Carbs are an essential part of the diet. They play many roles in the body including energy production and storage, lipid metabolism, protein sparing, and DNA building.
Myth: Carbs make you fat.
Fact: Everyone’s body needs a unique amount of calories, and carbs make up one part of your needed intake. By staying within your carb, fat, and protein needs each day, you will get the right amount of calories to maintain your weight.
Myth: I can’t eat carbs before bed.
Fact: Studies show that spreading your macros out throughout the day can promote muscle building/repair, improved sport performance, increased satiety, and mental focus. If you workout in the afternoon or evening, having carbohydrates post-workout can be very advantageous for your body’s energy and muscle repair.
Carbohydrates are the body’s main, and best source of fuel. They provide the body with both short-term and long-term energy, depending on how complex they are. Thus, as it gets closer to your workout time, simple carbs are key to provide you with quick digesting energy. It is important not to skip carbs during your pre-workout meal/snack!
3-4 hours pre workout- balanced meal including carbs, protein, fats:
2-3 hours pre workout- smaller meal, snack containing carbs:
<60 minutes pre workout- simple carbs only + fluids:
Carbohydrates are the most important nutrient before a workout to fuel our bodies. During a workout, simple carbohydrates are used within an hour, despite how long the workout is. Whether you are playing a two hour basketball game OR running a four hour marathon, your body will need more fuel after 60 minutes. Utilizing simple carbohydrates allows the body to access new energy the fastest.
In addition, carbohydrates are very important post-workout. Typically, we only think about protein after a workout. However, did you know that carbs after a workout help build muscle too? Carbohydrates replace energy expended during our exercise leaving protein free to repair and build muscle. Thus, getting carbs AND protein in after a workout is essential. Further, if you workout at night, having carbohydrates post-workout helps to fuel the body for the next day! Check out our 5 Quick and Easy Post Workout Shakes for an easy post-workout snack.
In conclusion, carbohydrates play a role in both pre-workout and post-workout nutrition to support your athletic performance and overall health. They are the body’s main source of energy first and foremost. For goals of improving performance, gaining muscle, or reaching new personal records, carbohydrates may be the most useful tool. Further, pairing carbohydrates with protein post-workout can ensure your muscles recover properly and that your energy stores are replenished. Next time you get ready for a workout, keep these things in mind!