Benefits of Carbohydrates During Exercise


Many foods, including whole grain bread, supply energy for an exercise routine and help us staying healthy and fit.
Carbohydrates provide energy for the muscles:
When we engage in moderate physical activity or practice our favorite sport the muscles around the skeleton use a simple carbohydrate called “glucose” as energy in order to perform the required movements. Muscles take their fuel first from the blood stream (the available glucose also referred to as “blood sugar”) and then from a deposit of glucose stored within the muscle fibers known as “glycogen”.
When an activity is carried out for a sustained period of time, like jogging around the park, these reserves of carbohydrates may become depleted and we may feel fatigued.
Foods high in carbohydrates such as starchy vegetables, whole fruits, whole grains, and cereal grain products like wheat bread and pasta are excellent choices to make sure the glucose deposits are replenished. This is particularly imperative when practicing any kind of sports as you want to make sure your energy deposits are well stocked in advance to avoid exhaustion.
The role of carbohydrates in exercise:
As mentioned before, carbohydrates make up the most important source of energy during exercise. The use of energy derived from carbohydrates depends on various factors:[1]

  1. Intensity and duration of the exercise
  2. Type of training
  3. Diet previously consumed

This means that sports persons and elite athletes can combine diet and training to achieve maximum control of these energy stores and use them to their own advantage.
Benefits of consuming carbs:
Many studies have shown that eating carbohydrates before or during exercise can actually improve two significant things:[2]
-Endurance capacity, which translates to a better ability to continue the activity for a longer period of time without tiring.
-Performance, enhancing your body´s ability to meet the physical demands of each sport.
These benefits apply for all, trained elite athletes and common people who practice recreational sports, both children and adults, and men and women alike. For example, scientists from the Department of Nutritional Sciencesfrom the University of Viennaconfirmed the benefits of consuming carbohydrates before and during exercising for men that cycle over 90 minutes.[3]
In any case, according to science enjoying foods rich in carbohydrates before and during exercise has positive effects for both endurance sports, such as running a marathon, and shorter exercises of high intensity, like high-intensity interval training (HIIT).[4]
If you have an active lifestyle and engage in regular heavy exercise it is recommended that you consume 9-10 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of body mass to ensure there is enough energy available and you fully recover afterwards.[5]

Therefore, make sure to include some of these in your diet:

  • Whole grains like whole wheat bread, brown rice, buckwheat porridge, and bulgur wheat
  • Cereal foods such as corn tortillas, wheat flour bread, and pasta
  • Fruits with skin on
  • Leafy green vegetables
  • Root vegetables such as beetroots, carrots, and parsnips