Carbohydrates: Friend or Foe

Carbohydrates have gotten a bad rap in the past, but are they really as bad as they say?

When exercising at high intensities, carbohydrates are the preferred fuel source, primarily due to the fact their readily available and easy to access. Whether training or taking part in a competition, it is vital you arrive fully fuelled and ready to go.

So, why are so many athletes afraid to eat carbohydrates. Of course, when eaten in excess coupled with high levels of inactivity, weight gain can occur. However, with the correct prescription carbohydrates can be extremely effective in enhancing sports performance.

Now, I presume you’re wondering what is the correct prescription for me, right?

Unfortunately, that all depends on various different factors e.g. body weight, type of training, intensity and your goals. There is no such thing as a one size fits all approach; some people will do better with larger quantities of carbohydrates in comparison to others.

However, during everyday nutrition, carbohydrates should come predominantly from starchy vegetables (potatoes, carrots, parsnips) and wholegrains (brown rice, pasta and brown bread) and should be consumed every 3-4 hours. Carbohydrates to limit, would be those high in sugar e.g. white bread, pasta, rice, bagels, donuts, ice-cream and chocolate.

On the flip side, when competing in an endurance event, high sugary carbohydrates can be more friend than foe.

Take home message:

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking all carbohydrates are created equal and should be avoided at all costs. When eaten in excess, weight gain can occur, however, when performing high intensity exercise, they are extremely beneficial. Therefore, carbohydrate periodization should be considered to ensure you’re fuelling for the work required and getting the most out of your training.

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