Eat More Carbs, Love From Active Nation*

Ever Felt A Bit Like This After An Indulgent Weekend?

carbs and training

The Indulgent Weekend

Last weekend Caroline and I had a bit of an indulgent weekend. Our indulgence is usually fairly short-lived (sadly), but doesn't revolve around sugars and fats in their truest form: but always carbs. Come Monday morning we both felt bloated, and we banished all bread, pasta and rice from our house (actually I think they're just taking a much needed vacation behind a rather domineering tin of coffee).

But were we justified in our war on carbs?

Probably not.

I decided to have a bit of a poke around some of my old uni textbooks (hardcopy, its like an iPad with paper in it) to see what I could garner on the exact reaction carbs had on your body. It was interesting as the textbooks were about 10 years old, just about the same time as the simple old carb started getting a bad rap.
Decisions, Decisions!

war on carbohydrates

The War on Carbs

Eating carbohydrates (carbs) has been demonised in the past decade. Low-carb options for all kinds of food and beverage (even the humble beer) now pepper our supermarket shelves and menus. We've become pretty carb adverse as a society. Oscar Wilde once said "Everything in moderation, including moderation"- but we haven't taken a moderate standpoint on carbs, we've actually banished them from our diet. So should we be also eating carbs in moderation?

So Lets Pop Back to High School Biology

Our body is fuelled by this wonderful stuff called glycogen. It comes into its own especially when training. Glycogen is the stored sugar in your liver that is released as the body needs more energy. Similar to your car's fuel tank, if its running on empty, you've got nothing to fall back on.

Movement requires energy, and if you don't have any (energy), you're done. One of our main sources of energy as human beings happens to be carbohydrates. Athletic trainers will tell you that post-training, athletes need to get their glycogen levels back up: the easiest way? Carbs! Failing to do so means the potential for muscle breakdown, diminished muscle recovery, and overall reduced performance.

Simply not that complex

Our two basic types of carbs are:

1) simple
2) complex

Simple carbs are simple sugars (think glucose, fructose, and sucrose). They provide instant energy, and glucose gels tend to be a bit of a staple for most endurance athletes for this reason. They are your "go to" energy source for most instant energy hits (and probably one of the reasons we're almost pre-wired to crave sweet stuff when we're hungry).

Complex carbs are derived from plant-based foods (bread (wheat), pasta(wheat), potatoes etc'). (these were our downfall in our indulgent weekend!). They give us sustained energy over longer periods of time, and are a good way to put the glycogen back in that's been depleted through training.
eat carbs
Carbs, Glorious Carbs

Carbs, Carbs, Carbs, & You

So what's our recommendation?

Well there's good carbs (complex carbs, just remember what Oscar Wilde said), and there's bad carbs (simple carbs). Try a month of cutting out all "hidden sugars" (simple carbs) from your diet and you'll see what we mean! You'll be leaner and meaner in no time!

The amount of complex carbs, and your overall portion size you need in a day varies depending on your goals, weight, and sport. If you're doing long weight-loss sessions based around cardio (endurance) you're going to need more pre-loaded glycogen than your gym counterparts training for strength and muscle mass, who will need less. The same can be said of post-workout/event glycogen needs for both of the athletes in this example.

*IMPORTANT: We are not licensed, nor are we here to give nutritional advice but most formal studies suggest a pre-workout intake of 60g of carbs for endurance lasting between 2-3 hours, and up to 90g of carbs for longer efforts. Under 2 hours? Less than 60g of carbs pre-workout should suffice.

Still not sure? We suggest trying 0.5-1g of carbs per kilo of bodyweight pre-training. Experiment with this, you'll need more if endurance is your flavour, less if you're a strength dude/dudette.

Just remember everything in moderation. Carbs do get a bad rap, so if you're denying yourself, maybe slowly start to increase your carbohydrate content pre and post training/event and monitor your bodies response.

Good, Bad, Ugly?

What do you think about carbs? Whats your burning health, fitness or nutrition question? Let us know here, we'd love to know and we'd love to help so drop us a line, here.


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