Carbs are possibly the most demonized macronutrient, even more so than fat. But carbs are not the enemy, especially for recreational athletes. My last installment of Savvy Sports Nutrition series addressed whether or not you need a protein shake. I was a bit nervous that those of you who love your protein shakes would throw virtual stones at me, but I’m very pleased with the reception of that topic. In turn, I thought this week’s article should address carbs. And at the end of this article, I have a FREE surprise for you!
Here are 6 reasons you should love carbs:
- Carbs are fruits and vegetables. Many people who say they “don’t eat carbs” mean that they don’t eat starchy grains, like bread and rice. Fruits and vegetables are actually fantastic sources of carbohydrates. They are the most concentrated source of vitamins and minerals, which are essential for overall health and immunity. They are also fantastic sources of phytochemicals and antioxidants. These natural anti-stress agents decrease post-exercise inflammation and may decrease the risk of developing serious diseases.
- Carbs are fuel for exercise. Carbs are the best thing to eat before a workout (sometimes I feel like a broken record). Your body usually has carbs stored up in the muscle and liver. This glycogen is generally used in the first 10-15 minutes of exercise, and then the body relies on any dietary carbs to maintain energy levels during exercise. Before exercise it’s best to eat an easily digestible carb, like a piece of fruit or a few handfuls of cereal.
Carbs feed the brain. The brain needs carbs to function properly. Specifically, the brain survives on the end product of carbs, aka glucose. When a person is on a low-carb diet, the brain has little to eat and starts to make glucose from other sources (leading to my next point).
- Inadequate carb intake can cause muscle breakdown. Since our most important organ–the brain–needs glucose, the body will do everything it can to make it. How does it do this? It takes other fuel sources, such as protein and fat, and converts them to glucose. Unfortunately, this process is very time consuming, inefficient, and taxing on the body. Just another reason that you should eat your carbs!
- Carbs are the best source of fiber. Fiber comes from whole grains, beans, fruits and veggie which are all carbs! Fiber has been shown to help lower cholesterol, improve blood sugar levels in those with diabetes, prevent heart disease, and help maintain a healthy weight. Foods high in fiber help provide a feeling of fullness that helps with weight maintenance. Fiber also helps move along digestion. I should note that athletes must be mindful of eating fiber before sporting event because it can cause digestive problems.
- Carbs are in dairy. Did you know that lactose is a carb? Yup, the sugar is milk and yogurt is a natural sugar from lactose. I love dairy products because they are high in protein, carbs, vitamins, and minerals. Eat your dairy for fuel, strong bones, and big muscles!
Now that I’ve given you 6 reasons to love carbs, I want to give you something else. I have created an Athlete Carb Checklist, featuring 31 of my favorite carbs for athletes. This checklist is completely FREE and immediately available to you by clicking the button below!