With all the trends toward low-carb diets these days, it is important for athletes to understand the role carbohydrates play in their performance. Carbohydrates are an athlete's main source of fuel as they are stored as glycogen in the muscles and liver. This glycogen is used by the body as energy during training and competition. Without proper glycogen levels, the body becomes fatigued and performance may decrease at a rapid rate.
According to the National Strength and Conditioning Association, the recommended carbohydrate intake is 5-7 g/kg/day for general training, and that endurance athletes are more likely to need in the range of 7-12 g/kg/day of carbs. By using this information we can deduce that about 60% of an athlete's diet should come in the form of carbohydrates including starchy foods such as bagels, pasta, cereal, potatoes, and rice to name a few.
These are complex carbohydrates that take the body a little longer to digest and break down into sugars. Simple sugars can be found in foods such as fruits and fruit juice, vegetables, candy, soda, sports drinks, and milk products. The body absorbs these foods faster and is able to utilize the sugars quicker than it can with complex carbohydrates. These are both considerations that need to be made when it comes to planning when and what to consume for pre-workout or pre-competition meals. Having both simple and complex carbohydrates as part of the equation will ensure longer storage of glycogen in the muscles and liver, and therefore more energy during training and competition.
So, Athletes, there is no need to fear the almighty carbohydrate. In fact, it is better to understand when and why we use carbohydrates to ensure our performance stays at high levels than to disregard carbohydrates as something unimportant or negative for the body. Here is an easy and delicious recipe I use for breakfast that includes several types of carbohydrates:
3/4 Cup Milk of Choice
3/4 Cup Old-Fashioned Oats
A handful of chopped nuts
Drizzle of honey
Sprinkle of Cinnamon
Mix together in a mason jar and let sit at least 5 hours in the refrigerator(or overnight so you can have it in the morning) and enjoy a delicious breakfast or pre-workout/pre-competition meal!