A Case for Carbohydrates and Strength
Into strength training? Then you may know about the importance of protein for your muscles. But you may be less aware of the role that carbohydrates play when it comes to total body fitness. Carbohydrates are to your body what sunlight is to a solar panel. They are energy for hard-working muscles. Carbohydrates take on the form of glucose, which is stored as glycogen in the body. Stored glycogen is your reservoir of energy. It is needed for your body to perform strength-building activities and other exercise. Making sure your reservoir is full helps muscle tissue build and rebuild after intense workouts. If you are not energizing your muscles with carbohydrate, your body will begin breaking down muscle tissue in a desperate attempt to find energy.
In addition to energy for muscular activity, carbohydrates also increase the production of insulin. Insulin is a hormone that promotes protein synthesis, decreases protein breakdown, aids glucose uptake into working muscle, and stimulates glycogen storage. All of these actions are vital for muscle building and repairing.
So when is the right time to consume carbohydrates? The answer depends on the length of your workout. In general, however, eating carbohydrates before and after exercise will help energize your body while saving unnecessary wear and tear on your muscles. Eating carbohydrates before you work out helps provide energy you’ll burn up while you train. And eating carbohydrates after you work out helps replenish both your energy and your muscles. Because strength training uses up energy from food you have recently eaten, which is in your bloodstream in the form of glucose, you have to replenish that energy or it can lead to reduced muscle force, diminished strength, and muscle weakness. This replenishment period continues for 24 hours after exercise, which is why, if you’re training hard, it’s especially important to incorporate carbohydrates into your daily diet before and after your workouts. In fact, if you’re exercising for more than an hour at a time, you will also want to eat some form of carbohydrate during your workout. Energy gels, chews, and drinks are useful here.
One thing’s for sure: working muscles need energy. And there’s no better energy source for a serious workout than carbohydrates. In addition to focusing on protein in your diet, be sure to find a place for carbohydrates. If you’re including plenty of fruit, dairy, and whole grains, you’re on the right track. Sugar also has its place because it is rapidly digested and absorbed. Foods like granola and bananas, crackers with peanut butter, CLIF Builder’s Bars, and trail mix made with fruit and nuts are also easy ways to load up. So don’t forget the carbohydrates, and you will find you have more energy and will see greater results from all the hard work you put into your workouts.