Updated: Mar 3, 2020
Some of my best friends are carbs!
Let's start with what a carbohydrate actually is. It is our primary energy source and they are made up of glucose chains, or sugar chains. These are good sugars that the human body requires. Especially as an athlete, carbohydrates are an essential part of fueling training to crush your personal records. Carbs are primarily whole grains, beans, fruits, and vegetables, but we can get a little bit from nuts and seeds too.
Here's what you need to know:
1. Carbohydrates provide energy - both quick and sustained energy. Not just for body but for your brain. I can't stress this enough. Simple carbs, like fruits, give you a nice quick boost of energy which is helpful right before a workout. Complex carbs, like who grain bread, give you sustained energy which is needed for endurance training.
2. Carbohydrate foods have vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber that fat and protein don't have. Fiber increases bile acid excretion, feeds good gut bacteria, impacts our gut hormones, and many other great functions that improve our health.
3. Be selective, there are better carbs that others. Oatmeal is more nutrient dense than corn flakes. Black beans are more nutrient dense than potato chips. There is a time for each of these foods. Think about the quality of the carbs you are consuming. Fried foods and highly refined sugars will slow you down.
4. Carbs feed our gut bacteria as prebiotics. Our good gut bacteria directly impacts our overall health and immunity. What we eat turns on and off our genes. Eating poorly increase our likelihood for injury, inflammation, chronic disease. Eating a plant based whole food nutrient dense diet will support the longevity of your training. Plus healthy carbs gives us healthy bowel movements!
5. The media and non-nutrition experts have scared many Americans into believing that carbohydrates are unhealthy for us. I can promise you that there is no data ever suggesting that someone has gained weight or developed a chronic disease from eating fruits or vegetables. In fact, just the opposite is true. By cutting out fruit from the diet, one is missing out on a variety of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that we receive great health benefits from.
As an athlete, you need every advantage over your opponent. As a soldier, your physical performance and athleticism can mean much more than that in the field. The data is there, and quality nutrient dense carbohydrates are the key to your success.