Carbohydrates are an important part of a healthy diet and especially crucial for an athlete’s energy needs. It is vitally important to understand the difference between complex and simple carbohydrates and nutrient timing with carbs to maximize the use of this important energy source, but at the same time maximize fat burn.
Complex Carbs: These are your body’s preferred source of energy. Legumes, vegetables, whole-grain bread, whole-grain pasta, brown rice, sweet potatoes, and quinoa fit into this category. Whole grain complex carbs are more nutrient-dense and contain more fiber. The extra fiber maintains a healthy digestive system and slows down the absorption of sugars. Consuming 35 grams of fiber per day would be ideal. This will keep blood sugar more stabilized.
Simple Carbs: While some simple carbs come from healthy foods, such as fruit, milk, yogurt, and honey it’s still best to have these foods in moderation or have them just before a hard workout. These sugars are digested very quickly and will help the body during a rigorous workout. These simple sugar-containing foods tend to be higher on the glycemic index and are best avoided any other part of the day. The simple sugars can lead to blood sugar spikes and then a sudden crash. It’s best to consume these simple sugars with protein about 1 hour before a hard workout. Carbohydrates spare protein so that protein can concentrate on building, repairing, and maintaining body tissues instead of being used up as an energy source.
Has the term “bonking” ever come up? This refers to someone who lets their glucose and glycogen stores in their body get to critically low levels. For athletes, this means they have no energy to continue and high-intensity activity cannot be maintained.