The Importance of Carbohydrates in Exercise

We all know why it’s important to exercise. We know that obesity is a growing problem in the western world, and our lifestyles do little to help us get adequate exercise. That makes us fat and unhealthy. But with so much emphasis on how one looks nowadays, it’s all too easy to fall into the trap of exercising to be slim, rather than exercising to be healthy. And if you’re depriving your body of certain foods in an attempt to keep your weight down, you may never achieve the results you want through exercise.

Anyone with an interest in what they put into their bodies will have a basic understanding of food nutrition. They’ll know the foods that make them fat and the foods that help them avoid catching colds. But if you’re following an exercise regimen then you may need to pay a little more attention to the foods you’re eating. Because while we all know that weight loss is achieved through restricting calorie consumption, this has to be done sensibly. Without the proper nutrients, the body can become lethargic, and when this happens, you’re at risk of losing motivation and skipping your workouts. Then before long, you’re back to your old habits, and the weight you initially lost has crept back on — with a few additional pounds.

Daily exercise is important because as well as burning calories it increases the flow of oxygen to all parts of the body and strengthens muscles, including the heart. It can also help reduce the risk of contracting some diseases including diabetes and high blood pressure. But for the body to be able to exercise efficiently it needs to be fed the proper fuel — and that includes carbohydrates. Carbohydrates have attracted bad press in the last few years. But no matter how many diets claim rapid weight loss by eliminating carbohydrates, they are an important food group, especially for those who exercise on a regular basis.

If your body’s stock of carbohydrate is low, then it will start depleting its liver and muscle glucose stores, and when these are empty, the body will start using up its fat stores. This in turn leads the body to believe it is being starved and, as a result, it lowers its metabolic rate. As soon as carbohydrates are introduced back into the diet, the body re-stocks all its depleted stores just in case the same happens again, which means that weight gain is inevitable.

Regardless of what type of exercise you do, your body will always need glucose for energy. Glucose, formed from the breakdown of carbohydrates, is stored as glycogen and needs to be regularly topped up as the body can store only a limited amount. If you don’t consume enough carbohydrates, and you continue to exercise, you will soon become fatigued: this is when motivation disappears, and goals are abandoned.It’s a simple equation: the most physical activity you engage in, the more glucose your body uses so, the more carbohydrates you need to consume.

Carbohydrates also have a role to play in post-exercise: consuming carbohydrates within 15 minutes of your workout will help restore glycogen. And eating 100 – 200 grams of carbohydrate within two hours of endurance exercise will help build an adequate store of glycogen for continued training. Stick to complex carbohydrates such as rice, pasta, bread, fruits, and vegetables; these are usually more nutritious than simple carbohydrates that are often accompanied by high levels of fat (e.g. chocolate).

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