Carbohydrates, or carbs for the lazy, have received a lot of bad press lately. Some of it is justified but not all carbs are bad for you. In fact, carbs have a very beneficial effect on your health, wellbeing and recovery.
What Are Carbohydrates?
We all know the basics about carbs. They are the main energy source for our body. Carbs can be broken down into two basic groups:
- Simple carbohydrates — sugars, fruits, processed foods
- Complex carbohydrates — grains, rice, cereals, potatoes
The body will absorb simple carbohydrates much quicker than complex carbohydrates. This can beneficial for post-workout meals where the body will need to recover. During training, your muscles energy stores will be depleted and muscle fibres will be damaged. This is good for you, but you need to make sure you recover is as quick as possible so you can train again. If you’re taking too long to recover from training sessions, it’s possible you may need to rethink your post-workout meals.
You should combine a healthy simple carb such as fruit (apples and bananas are a great choice) and a good quality protein (such as chicken breast or a good quality protein powder).
The bulk of your carbohydrates should come from complex carbs. Optimal sources of these carbs include brown rice, oats, potatoes and sweet potatoes.
Carbs will provide the basis of the energy your body needs to function throughout the day. You need to ensure you’re consuming enough carbs so you can train hard, but make sure you don’t over do it!
On your rest days, you should try to reduce your carb intake (but not eliminate it completely). On your rest days, swap out your carbs of some good quality fats such as avocados or salmon. Not all fats are bad for you, so long as you eat them in moderation.
How Much Carbs Should You Eat?
The amount of carbs required per person will depend on their current fitness levels, training goals and the amount of training they’re doing. Ensure you eat a good carb source such as oats for breakfast each day and a good carb source post-workout.
You should ideally reduce the amount of carbs you consume before going to bed. Carbs are your primary energy source, and should be consumed before your workouts, and immediately after. Try to consume more protein for your evening meals instead of carbohydrates, and your body will thank you for it.