A Guide To Carbohydrates For Sports Performance


A carbohydrate is component of food that supplies energy (calories) to the body. One of the three macronutrients (along with proteins and fats). Three broad categories of carbohydrates are sugars (also called simple carbohydrates), starches (also called complex carbohydrates), and fiber. Except for fiber and resistant starch, carbohydrates cause more and faster blood glucose rises than the other macronutrients. Fiber and resistant starch are not digested in the small intestine, but have many positive effects.

The impact of protein and carbohydrates in exercise:

Carbs provide your body with energy that you need to get through workouts. Foods that are rich sources of carbs include breads, pasta and cereals. Your body utilizes protein to build and maintain muscle. Meats, dairy, soy, nuts and beans are high in protein. The combination of the protein and carbs before, during and after working out provides you with several benefits. According to the National Strength and Conditioning Association, carbs and protein speed recovery, promote muscle growth and improve sports performance.

Athletes and people who exercise frequently may need a higher amount of carbs in their diet. Consume 60 percent of your daily calories from carbs, 30 percent of fewer calories from fat and between 10 percent and 15 percent from proteins if you are active, states the FAO.

What Is the Difference Between Carbohydrates and Gluten?

Confusing carbohydrates and gluten can occur with good reason because gluten is a constituent often present in whole-grain-containing carbohydrate foods. However, carbohydrates are a category of food nutrient, whereas gluten is a protein inside of the intact grain. You can follow a diet plentiful in carbohydrate-containing foods that does not also contain the ingredient gluten. This is particularly important for individuals with celiac disease because gluten triggers the disease. Gluten poses a significant problem for the digestive tract of people with celiac disease, whose intestines cannot tolerate even a small amount of the ingredient.

Carbohydrates That Contain Gluten
Whole-grain products, particularly wheat, barley and rye, contain gluten. Semolina, bulgur, kamut, spelt and farina are also gluten-containing carbohydrates. Breads, pasta, brown rice and cereals can includes these forms of carbohydrates. Beers with fermented wheat, pastries, cookies, crackers and oats contain gluten unless otherwise indicated as gluten-free on product labels. Check product labels for these ingredients or the term “gluten.” Hidden gluten may be labeled as hydrolyzed vegetable protein, malt flavoring, soy or modified starch.
Gluten-Free Carbohydrates
All grains contain carbohydrates, but not all grains contain gluten. Refined white grains generally do not have gluten, but check product label ingredients. Fruits and vegetables are a form of carbohydrate and are nongluten foods, unless the produce is packaged in breading or prepared with a gluten stabilizer like wheat, rye or barley. Potatoes, hominy grits, quinoa and corn-based starches like tortillas do not contain gluten.

What are smart carbohydrates?

Contrary to the popular opinion that carbohydrates are a sure source of weight gain, they are actually an important part of your diet. Besides providing your body’s primary fuel source, carbohydrates also contain most of the vitamins, minerals and fiber you need every day. Of course, many people tend to overeat carbs, especially grains — but it’s the overeating, not the carbs, that causes weight gain. Smart carbs are those that give you the biggest nutritional bang for your buck, and making them the basis of your diet leads to a healthier body.2

Mix low- and high-GI foods (glycaemic index, (GI) provides a measure of how quickly blood sugar levels rise after eating a particular type of food) at some meals so you get both instant and sustained energy. Make the majority of your grain products whole-grain, and experiment with alternative grains like millet and quinoa, which are high fiber. Not all of your carbs must be low-calorie, but it’s helpful to know which ones you can turn to for a diet-friendly snack. Low-calorie foods that are high in fiber but have a low-GI will keep your energy up, your belly full and your calorie bank low until your next meal. Avoid refined grains like white flour, white bread, white rice and white sugar, because these offer calories and little else.

What happens when you starve your body of carbohydrates?

While you may drop pounds on a low-carb diet, starving your body of carbohydrates can have unwanted repercussions. Cutting out good carbs, like fiber-rich whole grains and produce, deprives you of essential nutrients and can increase your risk of chronic diseases. It can also cause the release of ketones into your blood, which may lead to kidney stones and other conditions. It’s wise to ask your doctor how many carbohydrates you need per day.

Rather than starve yourself of carbohydrates, work on incorporating nutrient-rich ones into your diet. Choose from items like whole-grain breads, legumes and fresh fruits and vegetables. If your doctor recommends you follow a low-carb diet for health or weight-loss purposes, discuss how to incorporate “good” carbs into your diet while limiting or eliminating “bad” ones. Also ask how many grams of carbohydrates you should be getting in a day, and let your doctor know if you begin to experience any adverse side effects from cutting carbs.

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