Why is it Important to Consume Carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates are necessary for many bodily functions, but they also help to prevent muscle injuries when practising sports.
Why is it Important to Consume Carbohydrates?

Last update: 23 June, 2020

Being one of the three essential macronutrients, it’s important to make sure that you consume carbohydrates in large enough amounts. Foods rich in carbohydrates normally contain a lot of fiber, which is important for intestinal health. Carbohydrates are also a crucial source of energy for athletes.

Carbohydrates and strength sports

Within strength sports, glucose is the preferred nutrient for energy production. Carbohydrates break down into glucose in the body and therefore, they’re really important for performance.

Carbohydrates also help to prevent injury. Doing intense workouts or competing with low glycogen levels increases your risk of muscle injury. As a result, strength athletes need a regular supply of carbohydrates, preferably with a low glycemic index.

Consuming carbohydrates before, during, and after strength training is essential for optimum performance, and there are plenty of recipes and supplements available for athletes.

One example is sports drinks, which contain a certain amount of sugar. These drinks can be beneficial if consumed during training to maintain the correct blood glucose levels.

Consume carbohydrates as a performance aid

Athletes regularly include carbohydrates in their meals and snacks, and combining them with protein stimulates endogenous protein synthesis and fills up glycogen stores.

A collection of fruits and nuts.

In other situations, it’s possible to maximize carbohydrate efficiency by using supplements. One example is creatine, which needs carbohydrates to produce a spike in insulin and increase absorption.

There are also some products that are solely based on carbohydrates. The main aim of these supplements is to overload the body’s glycogen stores for an increase in subsequent performance.

Importance varies in endurance sports

When talking about endurance sports, the use of carbohydrates changes. Training on an empty stomach can be an effective way to maximize the efficiency of beta lipid oxidation. This encourages the body to save carbohydrates instead.

This way, with a supply of low glycemic index sugars during the event, you’ll be able to keep glycogen stores almost full. Ready to use when you need to increase intensity.

In this type of exercise, the essential nutrients for energy production are proteins and fats. These are broken down and transported to the liver, where they’ll be transformed into glucose for later use. Glucose is used in parallel, but it represents a much lower percentage than in strength sports.

Consume carbohydrates for your general health

In the case of healthy non-athletes, carbohydrates are still important. Eating foods with low glycemic index sugars can control your appetite and make you feel fuller. However, it’s not an essential nutrient for bodily functions.

This is why ketogenic diets have become popular since they may be good for weight loss and controlling certain diseases, such as epilepsy.

A woman eating spaghetti.

One special case is that of type-1 diabetics, who do need better control of their carbohydrate intake. In this situation, the patient will require some nutritional education so that they can control the number of sugars they consume. From here, they can take the necessary doses of insulin to control the glucose curve.

Conclusion

Carbohydrates are an essential nutrient, especially for athletes. For strength athletes, they’re one of the first sources of energy. A decrease in the number of sugars in the body can cause significantly reduced performance and an increased risk of muscle injury.

However, if we’re just concerned with general health, the situation may be slightly different. Although the consumption of low glycemic index carbohydrates is associated with good fiber intake, this nutrient isn’t always useful.

Finally, when managing diseases such as refractory epilepsy, reducing carbohydrate intake can significantly reduce the risk of problems.

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  • Rivellese AA., Glacco R., Costabile G., Dietary carbohydrates for diabetics. Curr Atheroscler Rep, 2012. 14 (6): 563-9.