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What are Carbohydrates?
Carbohydrates play a primary role in the human body as a major source of both food and daily energy. As many dieters and exercisers are familiar with, carbohydrates can be found in a long list of foods, like bread, potatoes, beans, pasta, vegetables, and even milk.
A carbohydrate is built upon a sugar molecule, made up of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. Both starch and fibre are produced from chains of sugar molecules to provide sources of either quick or slow-releasing energy for the body upon digestion.
Carbohydrates are divided into two different categories:
- Simple Carbohydrates: Simple carbs contain sugar, like sucrose, fructose, dextrose, or glucose; examples include table sugar, fruit sugar, and corn sugar.
Simple carbohydrates are useful in exercise because they provide the body with a quick burst of energy through rapid digestion. However, in day-to-day life simple carbs are best kept to a minimum since they are generally less nutritious than complex carbohydrates.
- Complex Carbohydrates: Complex carbs are made of three or more sugars linked together. Most experts consider complex carbohydrates as healthier to eat since they digest slowly to stabilize blood sugar. In addition, many complex carbohydrates are naturally rich in fibre, vitamins, and minerals from whole plant sources.
How do they work?
To jumpstart your next workout, a Genesis Nutrition carbohydrate supplement may be exactly what you’re looking for. Carbohydrates are the fuel that the body needs to metabolize to use as energy. Although the body can metabolize fat and protein for energy, carbohydrates are vital since they improve performance and stamina so that the body can operate as intended.
When carbohydrates are consumed in food or in a supplement, several reactions can occur:
- Carbohydrates are broken down into glucose for immediate use as energy. Glucose is an ideal energy source for both the brain and active muscles; for this reason, carbs must be first broken down into glucose before they can be used by the body.
- Carbohydrates are broken down into glucose and converted to glycogen for storage. If energy fuel isn’t needed when the body is at rest, carbs will be stored as glycogen in muscle and liver tissue to use at a later date. Once the body requires energy, glycogen storages will be broken down to convert into glucose for immediate energy.
- Carbohydrates are broken down into glucose and converted into fat for storage as adipose tissue. Once glycogen storages in muscle and liver tissue are full, carbs will be converted into fat for long-term storage. This is a worst-case scenario that most exercisers and weightlifters want to avoid at all costs, making the proper consumption of carbohydrates when training essential to prevent fat gain.
How will they benefit me?
The team at Genesis Nutrition Australia can’t stress enough the importance of carbohydrate consumption before, during, and after exercise. Since carbohydrates are necessary fuel for the body, taking the right carb supplement can help to improve performance, decrease fatigue, support muscle health, and much more.
Still sceptical? Check out the many benefits that you can receive from taking a carbohydrate supplement:
- Enhanced exercise performance. Countless studies have confirmed that consuming carbohydrates can improve workout performance by stabilizing blood glucose.1 As a result, energy levels will remain steady during exercise to noticeably improve performance, compared to only drinking water.
- Healthy muscle growth. As the body becomes exhausted in a rigorous workout, it needs fuel to keep moving. If carbohydrates aren’t readily available, the body will break down healthy muscle fibres for energy
Supplying the body with ample amounts of glucose during exercise will improve stamina and regulate energy levels to support muscle growth and recovery.
- Stabilized blood sugar. According to University of Michigan research, a balanced low-carb meal after exercise can benefit patients with diabetes by controlling blood sugar.2 Strenuous exercise can also cause blood sugar to rise as the body releases more glucose to supply muscles with energy. Carbohydrates after a workout will help to stabilize blood sugar and provide fuel by restoring depleted glucose and glycogen levels in the body.
What are the common types?
If you’re trying to enhance your workout results, you may find yourself at a crossroads. Should you take a carbohydrate supplement or get the carbs your body craves from food? While we’re certainly not suggesting that you forgo a healthy meal in place of a supplement, both food and supplements have specific benefits.
After a rigorous workout, supplements can be advantageous by providing quick digesting carbs that will be rapidly absorbed by the body. In comparison, food takes longer to digest and may not offer the same results in post-workout recovery.
When shopping for a carb supplement, products may be separated into the following categories:
- Dextrose: Also known as the simple sugar glucose for rapid digestion; preferred fuel by the muscles and brain. Recommended for use before, during, and after exercise.
- Maltodextrin: Quick digesting polysaccharide made up of several glucose molecules. Recommended for use before, during, and after exercise.
- Waxy Maize: Newer carbohydrate supplement with zero sugar; contains quick absorbing complex carbohydrates. Recommended to replenish glycogen storages before, during, and after exercise.
Carbohydrate Supplements: Timing and Dosage
The time of day that you supplement with carbohydrates can greatly impact exercise performance and stamina to make or break your results. Here are several ideal times to use a carb supplement throughout the day:
- Morning: Glycogen storages in muscle and liver tissue are naturally depleted after fasting overnight. At this time, fast-digesting carbs are a must to restock glycogen and transfer the body from a catabolic into an anabolic state for muscle growth.
- Before Exercise: A carb supplement 2 to 3 hours before exercise will put fuel in the bloodstream to provide energy for your workout. At this time, slow digesting carbs are best. Quick-digesting dextrose and maltodextrin can also be taken directly before a workout for fuel.
- During Exercise: High glycaemic carbs in a supplement during exercise will sustain energy and prevent muscle breakdown.
- After Exercise: Quick digesting carbs like dextrose, maltodextrin, and waxy maize can be taken directly after exercise to refuel. Slow digesting carbs can be taken 1 to 2 hours after exercise to refill glycogen stores for faster recovery.
- Before Sleep: Contrary to popular belief, a carb supplement can be taken before bed to facilitate muscle growth. This will prevent glycogen storages in muscle and liver tissue from dropping too low overnight.
Carb supplement dosage will vary based on personal goals and manufacturer’s directions. A typical serving could contain 50 g of carbohydrates taken once per day before exercise. Other carb supplements designed specifically for muscle gain may recommend use both before and after exercise, depending upon the intensity of workout and individual needs.
1. Sports Performance Laboratory, University of California, Davis, Sacramento, CA 95616-5270, USA. 2. "University of Michigan News Service | Low carbohydrate meals after exercise may benefit diabetics." University of Michigan News Service. Web. 30 Nov. 2012
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