Athletes and Carbohydrates
You’ve probably seen ads for low-carb foods and diets, but the human body needs carbohydrates. Most foods contain carbohydrates, which the body breaks down into simple sugars — the major energy source for the body. Athletes and carbohydrates go hand-in-hand. You should be consuming approximately 1 g of carbohydrates per pound of body weight as a part of your post workout meal or shake for non-bodybuilders. Muscle gainers will take more.
Two Types of Carbohydrates
There are two major types of carbohydrates (or carbs) in foods: simple and complex
These are also called simple sugars. Simple sugars are found in refined sugars, like the white sugar you use in your coffee or cereal. If you have candy, you are eating simple carbs. Simple sugars are found in more nutritious foods such as fruit and milk. It is better to get your simple sugars from food like fruit and milk. Why? Because these foods contain vitamins, fiber, and important nutrients like calcium without added sugar. Candy has lots of added sugar and does not contain important nutrients.
These are also called starches. Examples of starches include grain products such as bread, crackers, pasta, and rice. Some complex carbohydrate foods are better choices than others due to processing. Refined grains, such as white flour and white rice, have had nutrients and fiber removed. Unrefined grains still contain these vitamins and mineral sas well as phytonutrients and are rich in fiber which helps your digestive system work well. Fiber helps you feel full, so that explains why a bowl of oatmeal fills you up better than sugary candy with the same amount of calories.
How the Body Uses Carbohydrates
When you eat carbs, your body breaks them down into simple sugars. As the sugar level rises in your body, the pancreas releases a hormone called insulin. Insulin is needed to move sugar from the blood into the cells, where the sugar can be used as a source of energy.
When this process occurs quickly, as with simple sugars, you’re more likely to feel hungry again soon. When it occurs more slowly, as with a whole-grain food, you’ll be satisfied longer. These types of complex carbohydrates give you energy over a longer period of time.
Some foods containing a lot of simple sugars cause the blood sugar level to rise more quickly than others. Scientists have been studying whether eating foods that cause big jumps in blood sugar may be related to health problems like diabetes and heart disease.
The bottom line? Limit your intake of simple sugars (such as candy) and refined carbs and eat more complex carbohydrates like vegetables, oatmeal, and whole-grain wheat bread. This will result in a better source of energy and less likelihood of developing diabetes or having weight issues.
Try these five quick tips for adding good carbs to your diet:
1. Start the day with whole grains. Try hot cereal like oatmeal or a cold cereal that lists a whole grain first on the ingredient list.
2. Use whole grain breads for lunch or snacks. Look for bread that lists the first ingredient as whole wheat, whole rye, or some other whole grain. Even better, try one that is made with only whole grains, such as 100 percent whole wheat bread.
3. Bag the potatoes. Try brown rice, bulgur, wheat berries, whole wheat pasta, or another whole grain with your dinner.
4. Bring on the beans. Beans are an excellent source of slowly digested carbohydrates as well as a great source of protein.
5. Choose whole fruit instead of juice. An orange has two times as much fiber and half as much sugar as a 12-ounce glass of orange juice. Looking for a juice alternative?
Store-bought or café smoothies are marketed as “health” foods, but they are often loaded with sugar and high in calories. Try making a refreshing fresh fruit cooler instead. There’s no added sugar, and just a small amount of fruit, so this drink is only about 18 calories for each 12-ounce glass.
- 1/2 cup of ice
- 3/4 cup of sugar-free sparkling water
- 1/3 cup of melon or berries
- Chopped mint leaves or citrus slices (optional)
Place ice, sparkling water, and fruit in a blender. Blend until slushy, pour into a glass and garnish with mint or citrus slices.
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