Of all the nutrients that we consume, carbohydrates are probably the most talked about and the most misunderstood. Since the early 70s, with the start of the Atkins diet, people have practically banned all carbs from their diet with the notion that they will make you fat. No matter how many times this info is disproven, the rumors still persists and people continue to restrict themselves unnecessarily.
However, not all carbohydrates are created equal. You can’t just eat donuts all day, call it carb loading and expect to see impressive results. Getting the right carbs at the right times makes all the difference when it comes to your weight, blood sugar levels and athletic performance.
What are carbs?
Essentially, carbohydrates are sugars. You have glucose, a single unit of sugar otherwise known as a simple carb. Glucose is the most common form of sugar and your body’s main source of energy. You also have complex carbs called starches and fiber. Starches, chains of single sugar units linked together, must be converted to glucose once digested in order for your body to process them. Fiber, also a complex carb, is a sugar that your body doesn’t absorb. Because your body has to work harder to digest complex carbs, you get a prolonged, sustained source of energy.
Foods that rank high on the Glycemic Index (GI), think glucose, are absorbed quickly, causing a spike in blood sugar and providing you with fast energy. These types of foods are great when you’re expelling lots of energy for long periods of time – think running a marathon or a long, grueling HIIT session. When a food ranks low on the GI scale, think complex carbs, your body takes longer to digest and process the food and so avoids a sharp spike in blood sugar. These foods are better for all-day energy and keep you feeling full longer, so often help maintain a healthy weight.
How do I make carbs work for me?
If you’re working out for more than an hour at a time, you need to replenish your carb supply so that your body doesn’t start using your stored protein for energy. For intense training, experts suggest that 65-80 percent of your daily caloric intake come from carbs.It’s also important to choose the right carbs and time your consumption properly. You want to choose unprocessed, complex carbs like brown rice, whole-wheat pasta and bread for your diet, unless you are about to complete a long workout or just finishing one. Then you want to choose simple carbs like fruit juices, Gu or white bread and rice. Remember, carbs are energy! You want to use them to sustain your workouts and aid in recovery. Try to follow a schedule like the one listed below and then body-hack to see what works best for you. Some people swear by peanut butter and jelly sandwiches mid-race, while others need an all-liquid diet. You may want to rely on fruit, while others want gels or gummies. Try them all and choose your favorites.
When should I consume?
- One hour before your workout, have a snack that’s low in fat, protein and fiber. You want to make sure to eat something that will be easy on the tummy. Aim for about 5 grams of carbs per kilogram of body weight. Popular choices include bananas, oatmeal and sports drinks.
- Every 45 to 60 minutes of exercise, sip on a sports drink, pop in a chew, or eat some dried fruit. Find things that are easy to consume so as not to slow you down, but enough to keep your blood sugar from dropping and causing a crash.
- Within thirty minutes of ending your workout, you want to consume some simple carbs and protein. Chocolate milk is a great option, but if your stomach can’t handle lactose, bagels and protein bars are a great choice.
Check out this list created by Today’s Dietician to get an idea of where foods rank on the GI so you can start planning our diet accordingly.
Simple carbs that your body can quickly absorb for energy. These are best consumed in moderation during or after an intense workout or event.
- Fruit juices
- Baked potatoes
- White flour breads
- Ripe bananas
- White rice
- Mashed potatoes
- Refined carbohydrate foods
- Sports drinks
- Dried fruit
Slowly absorbed carbohydrates. These guys are great at maintaining blood sugar and a healthy weight.
- Most vegetables
- Leafy green vegetables
- Slow-cooked oatmeal
Moderately absorbed carbs. These are best used prior to workouts and for maintaining a healthy weight.
- Bran cereals
- Whole grain breads
- Dried fruit
These foods are essential for performance and good health.
- Raw/mixed nuts
- Fresh berries
- Omega-3 eggs
- Leafy green vegetables
- Nut butter
- Green tea
- Extra-virgin olive oil
DON’T FEEL GUILTY!
Carb Shield™ is a diet saving formula intended to be taken when you know you are going to stray from your diet. Whether it’s a dinner date, holiday meal or your weekly cheat day, don’t feel guilty. Carb Shield™ gives you a pass from your diet discipline.