Carbohydrates and Exercise

  1. Carbohydrates and Exercise

    Carbohydrates and Exercise

    Whether you currently exercise on a regular basis or have been giving some thought to getting started, don't even think about skimping on the carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are the fuel your body needs and prefers to power any type of exercise. Regardless of your choice of activity -- aerobic dance, running, strength training, yoga, swimming, bicycling, or walking -- you'll perform at your best by including a variety of carbohydrates in your diet.

    People often begin an exercise program when they go on a diet. They know that increased physical activity helps burn calories and tone muscle. What they may not consider is that when you cut calories, whether by extreme reductions in food intake or occasionally skipping meals, energy levels can take a nosedive. If you happen to be following a diet that cuts out or drastically reduces carbohydrate, remember that the conversion of protein to energy is a much slower and more difficult process for the body to complete. Following a high-protein diet may make you feel weak and tired. You'll end up skipping your workout entirely or cutting it short because you're too worn out-neither of which helps you reach your weight-loss goals.

    There are also considerations for carbs and timing of meals that depend on when you work out. Whether it's first thing in the morning, during your lunch hour, late afternoon, or after work, make sure you're not sabotaging your efforts by giving yourself either too little or the wrong kind of food.

    Early Birds

    If you're an early riser who likes to work out while most everyone else is still sleeping, congratulations! This is the best time to work out -- not necessarily in terms of burning more calories but because it's done and out of the way. Not much conflicts with a 5:30 a.m. workout. You're less likely to blow it off than if you save it for after work when long-running meetings, family commitments, or socializing with coworkers can get in the way.

    How do you feel before you begin your morning workout? Do you wake up hungry? If that's the case, you definitely need to eat something before you exercise. There's no one perfect food for everyone, so experiment with different food choices. One thing is certain, a small amount of a carbohydrate-rich food will do the trick to get you going and keep you going. Since glycogen (carbohydrate) stores are used while you sleep to keep your heart, brain, and other organs functioning, you need to top off those stores in the morning, particularly if you're hungry first thing.

    Some people do just fine exercising in the morning on an empty stomach; in fact, they may feel discomfort if they DO eat. Again, pay attention to your own hunger cues to see how you feel. If you're one of these folks, you may be ravenous after you wrap up your workout. This is an especially good time to bring on the carbohydrates! Immediately following a workout, your muscle cells are most receptive to taking up carbohydrate -- sort of like sponges soaking up all that glucose and storing it for the next bout of exercise.

    What if you have no appetite before you exercise and still don't feel hungry when you're finished? Try a liquid form of carbs, such as a fruit smoothie or a sports drink. This will still get the carbohydrate to your muscles within an optimal time frame and help prevent the extreme hunger that often follows a delayed appetite. Sometimes your appetite kicks in when you don't have access to food, and you end up overly hungry.

    Lunchtime Warriors

    Working out during lunchtime can break up the day while relieving stress. Before you work out, however, think back a few hours: Did you eat breakfast or skip it? If you ate breakfast, how many hours has it been? That light breakfast eaten in the predawn hours is long gone, and you may feel the effects in the form of low energy once you hit the gym. If you've skipped breakfast altogether, well, by now you know the consequences of that!

    If a midday workout is your standard routine, make certain you're up to the challenge by eating a mid-morning, carbohydrate-rich snack. Remember that most people need to eat every 3 to 4 hours. Topping off your tank an hour or so before you exercise will get you through your workout with energy to spare. Once you're finished, don't think skipping lunch will aid in your weight-loss efforts. Replenish carbohydrates, fluid, and protein to refill glycogen stores, cool and rehydrate your body, and begin to rebuild muscle. All are equally important for your next workout!

    Evening Exercisers

    If you save your workout until the end of the day, it's particularly important to do a fuel check. It may have been hours since you last ate. Just as you wouldn't expect your car to run without gas, you can't expect your body to perform optimally without fuel. Evening exercisers need to be diligent about their food intake all day long. A large coffee and pastry for breakfast, and a salad and diet soft drink for lunch will barely get you through the day, much less an evening distance run or toug h aerobics class. If you've added strength training to your workout routine and feel frustrated that you're not as strong or defined as you'd like, you may not be eating enough calories, including fat, protein, and carbohydrate. Carbohydrates aren't reserved for runners only!

    Consider eating five to six times during the day (meals and snacks), and include protein and carbohydrate each time. This eating strategy helps fill in nutrient gaps, maintain a steady blood sugar level, and won't leave you empty at the end of the day when your workout depends on adequate calories.

    For some people, foods with a high glycemic index may produce a quick surge in blood sugar followed by a quick drop to a too-low level. Use those foods in moderation before and during a workout. High-GI foods typically are best saved for replenishing glycogen after a workout.

    The Best Workout Food

    Here are some great food choices to keep you energized before and after you exercise:

    Pre-workout (low-GI) carbohydrate choices:
    Apricots, dried
    Garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
    Low-fat, fruited yogurt
    Skim milk, plain or chocolate

    Post-workout (high-GI) carbohydrate choices:
    Corn flakes
    Graham crackers
    White rice, long grain, quick cooking
    Potato, baked

    Carbs for Active People

    When it comes to physical activity powered by muscle glycogen stores, there are many variables to consider, such as the size of the individual and intensity of the activity.

    However, on average, we store enough carbohydrate for only 2 to 3 hours of physical exertion. As long as you eat consistently throughout the day with an eye toward variety and balance of macronutrients (protein, fat, and carbohydrate) and don't skimp on calories, you'll have plenty of fuel to get you through your daily workout. Unless you're participating in an ultra-endurance distance sporting event, you don't have to worry about running out of fuel completely!

    Exercise is a key component of weight
    loss, but eating is also vital to an
    effective workout. Don't skimp on the
    nutrition before you exercise.

    Last edited by matthew76; 08-06-2007 at 12:13 AM. Reason: forgot source

  2. Covered the bases, people should check this out when starting up. Some things are debatable/dependent on personal body types but generally correct.

    Also just got to remember to site the website/author (Im pretty sure I read this on howstuffworks.) Thanks for sharing though should be helpful to some people.

  3. Quote Originally Posted by OCCFan023 View Post
    Covered the bases, people should check this out when starting up. Some things are debatable/dependent on personal body types but generally correct.

    Also just got to remember to site the website/author (Im pretty sure I read this on howstuffworks.) Thanks for sharing though should be helpful to some people.

    i think he did at the bottom of the article.

  4. Quote Originally Posted by AnonyMoose View Post
    i think he did at the bottom of the article.
    opps - after he edited it.

  5. yeah - i thought i had it in there the first time - copy/paste from word...

    got it now though!




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