There are so many contradicting theories surrounding carbohydrates; we need them… we don’t need them… they are best eaten first thing in the morning… don’t have any after 18:00. This article will explain the different types of carbohydrates, when we should consume them and the best type for us!
This is probably a statement you have heard many times. The truth be told, a carb is NOT a carb. They all react differently and can all help or hinder your progress in their own ways. Carbohydrates are a great energy source, however if your body does not use them, they are easily stored as fat (another source of energy). This is why I strongly suggest that you only consume carbs when your body will use them, which is within your pre-workout meal, immediately after you have trained and finally, in your post-workout meal. This way, you will have enough energy to train efficiently yet not so much that your body will store it as fat. The amount of carbohydrates consumed throughout the day will always be the same, so whether you train at 6am or 6pm, carbohydrate timing still applies.
Simple vs Complex Carbohydrates
There are two different types of carbohydratess, simple and complex. Simple carbs have one or two sugars whereas complex carbs have 3 or more. This suggests how quickly the sugar is digested and absorbed by the body. Complex carbs are foods such as oats, brown pasta, and brown rice whereas simple sugars such as dextrose and maltodextrin can be found in sweets and fruit.
The carbs that are needed for training, whether it is weight-training, running or if you are training for a particular sport need to be complex as it is released slowly and steadily providing the energy needed for that particular session. Complex carbohydrates will be foods such as oats, brown rice, and sweet potato. These carbohydrates are best consumed 90 minutes before training as it gives you time to start digesting the food and not have it too soon so that it is still sitting about.
It is common for a lot of endurance athletes to take carbohydrates during their training. These are usually simple carbs like sport drinks or gels that long distance runners or cyclists tend to use just to give them that extra bit of an energy rush when they need that final push.
After you have trained it is important to get some simple carbs into your body as they are absorbed quickly by the body and will replenish muscle glycogen levels that have been depleted during training. Simple carbs will also increase the insulin hormone levels in the body. This therefore helps to get the vital proteins to your muscles quicker – increasing muscle size and strength. It is most common for people to consume fruit after a workout as it is high in sugar (simple carbs) but it is also known for people to consume some sweets or chocolate as an alternative.
So what have we learned?
- Simple carbs are to be used post workout and limited
- Complex carbs are best used pre-workout for sustained energy levels
- 50g of carbs from sugar is NOT the same as 50g of carbs from sweet potato
- Carbs are not essential to a diet but do help hugely with energy levels and to help recovery