Why Carbohydrates are Important for Athletes

pastaThe most basic nutrient in the human body is water. Next to it are the nutrients that give or provides fuel and energy. One of the essential nutrients is carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are the most abundant of the three energy giving nutrients in the body. The other two are protein and of course fats or lipids.

Carbohydrates can be digested and used up more easily compared to proteins and fats; making it the most ready source of energy. A carbohydrate is composed mainly of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. It has two basic kinds: these are the simple carbohydrates or the sugars and the complex carbohydrates which include the starches and fibers.

It is the liver’s job to break down these carbohydrates into a much simpler form known as glucose. This simple form of carbohydrates is what the cells, tissues and the major organs, including the brain, use for energy. Spare or excess carbohydrates are then stored in the muscles and liver in the form of glycogen. Glycogen can be directly used by the muscles during activities like exercise and workout.

In learning about carbohydrates, you have to keep in mind that it plays an important role in the proper functioning of bodily processes in more ways than one. Furthermore, a diet with the proper amount or servings of carbohydrates is proven to help prevent fat accumulation in the body, thereby reducing the risk of the development of fat related illnesses such as hypertension.

Carbohydrates are also essential in body development, fertilization, immunity, digestion and absorption, etc. Therefore, it also directly follows that the slightest depletion or decrease of this nutrient can alter the overall performance of the entire body system.

Carbohydrates are especially needed by those with an active lifestyle. These are the people who have the majority of their existence revolving around the world of physical training and exercise. These are the athletes. An athlete’s main focus is to perform at his best. His whole life is entirely devoted towards constant practice and training to achieve and maintain good performance.

Carbohydrates are something every athlete must be well stocked with. More physical activity requires more energy and certainly more intake and supply of carbohydrates. It has long been proven that proper intake of carbohydrates greatly contributes to improvement of work and performance. Taking out carbohydrates will mean an imbalance that will upset the performance of any athlete.

Athletes who train for almost the entire day are always at risk of carbohydrate depletion. The decrease in carbohydrates or sugar (its simple form) is known as hypoglycemia. Hypoglycemia is always considered as a medical emergency. Here, sugar in the body is at its lowest level. This would cause anyone to have a cold and pale skin and manifest signs of restlessness and fatigue. Immediate intervention is given when this happens. If you are experiencing hypoglycemia, you will have to be given glucose in the form of beverages for easy and rapid absorption to address this situation.

A well balanced meal, with optimum levels of carbohydrates for energy replacement and storage is then given to ensure full recovery. To avoid hypoglycemia, athletes must have an adequate carbohydrate serving at every meal. Glucose levels in the body are ensured through proper carbohydrate consumption. According to the American Dietetic Association, an athlete must be able to get 55 to 60% of their needed calories everyday from carbohydrates. It can be taken from foods such as bread, rice, cereal, pastas, bran, beans or legumes, potatoes, etc.

The proper timing and consumption of carbohydrates must also be considered. It is best taken before, during and after every physical activity in order to maintain the glucose levels in the body. Carbohydrates are especially needed during exercise for it’s the time when rapid use of glucose occurs. To replace all that glucose, experts advise athletes to take their much needed dose of carbs from beverages for quick and easy absorption.

With all these in your mind, you can now truly say that carbohydrates are indeed very important and beneficial. However, you must also remember that carbohydrates alone are not enough to sustain your body with its much needed energy. Fat, for one thing, is needed as another type of energy source. Protein is also one important thing. In addition to fueling your body, it aids in the repair and growth process of your muscle tissues. Those two, together with sustainable amounts of carbohydrates, water and proper exercise or training are the determinants of a good athletic performance.

Photo Credit: tifotter

Sports Nutrition

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