Carbohydrates are our bodies most important energy providers. We need carbs for our brains, for sports and weight loss. As they say, fat burns in the flame of carbohydrates.
Does sugar count as carbohydrates?
Yes. Glucose is the smallest and most frequent form of carbohydrates. It’s also often called dextrose, corn sugar or simply sugar. Our brain and nerve cells depend on the intake of glucose – only with glucose are we able to concentrate.
Empty carbohydrates or sugar
Carbs from foods made of white flour, from sodas or pure sweets are called “empty carbs” as they don’t provide any benefits except for the sweet taste. Unlike complex carbohydrates, empty carbs go directly into our blood. As a consequence, blood sugar levels skyrocket, then drop quickly again, which makes us either feel tired or experience cravings.
Complex carbs or fiber
Whole grain products, lentils, beans, peas, quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat,… they all not only contain B Vitamins, folic acid, magnesium, calcium, iron and protein, but also fiber. The fiber contained causes blood sugar levels to rise slower, optimizes digestion, keeps us full longer and, therefore, helps prevent cravings.
A rule of thumb for your carb consumption
Carbohydrates should account for approx. 50% of your food intake.
Rule of thumb? Rule of “hand”: Depending on how active you are, you can include 1-2 handfuls of carbs in the form of pasta, rice, bread, etc. in every meal. Best choice: whole grain products.
Can carbs be stored?
Yes. Glucose is deposited in our blood, liver and muscles in the form of glycogen. “Carboloading” is based on this effect, too.
Carbs & sports
An experiment conducted by Dill, Edwards and Talbott demonstrated that carbs play a vital role as energy providers in sports: Dogs had to run without carbohydrate intake; after 4 – 6 hours they were tired and hypoglycemic. In the second round, the dogs were fed carbs while running and were able to keep going for 17 – 23 hours.
Therefore, it’s important to plan on ingesting carbohydrates before, during and after your training. Plus, if we just fill up on protein WITHOUT any carbs, the body might be able to use only 10% of the protein because of a lack of insulin (which is produced by the body as soon as we eat carbohydrates).
So, carbs are just as important as protein when it comes to a balanced diet for athletes.