When it comes to carbohydrate foods for training there is a complex sea of information out there relating to which ones are the best for pre-training, intra-training and post-training. There are in fact certain carbohydrates that enhance performance and help to speed up recovery but there is a stringent science behind it, it is not just a case of cramming in as many carbs as you can get your hands on. Distinguishing between low glycemic carbohydrates and high glycemic carbohydrates is the way to determine which one you need and when. Lets start with pre-workout carbohydrates, which are the best ones and why.
Complex and low GI carbohydrates are ideal for consuming throughout the day to maintain optimum blood sugar levels and keep hunger levels at bay. Consume your meal containing your low GI carbs about an hour before your workout, then your body will have access to these nutrients when you train.
The best low glycemic carbohydrates to consume before training
Oats – Oats are full to the brim with fiber, which means your body will receive a slow, tapered release of carbohydrate throughout the day and your energy levels will stay consistent.
Sweet potato – Sweet potato digests slower than white potato giving you a tapered release of energy. The added benefit of sweet potatoes is that they contain an abundance of vitamins and minerals.
Basmati rice – Another slow digesting carbohydrate, basmati rice also helps keep blood sugar levels stable making it a great choice for diabetics. Basmati rice is also an excellent source of fiber.
Consuming slow digesting, low GI carbohydrate foods such as those listed above before your workout or training regime regularly throughout the day is the best way to maintain optimum blood sugar levels and avoid unnecessary insulin spikes. Having a tapered release of energy thorough the day will also ensure a successful training session because you will have enough glycogen to fuel your workout and you wont find yourself running out of energy all of a sudden.
These are some of the best types of carbohydrate to consume during the day and before your workout, of course you are not limited to the above suggestions as there are plenty of slow release carbohydrate choices available. Let’s move on to the post-workout carbohydrates and see why these are imperative to your recovery.
Immediately after a tough workout or training session your body is severely depleted of glycogen. To replace your bodies’ store of glycogen quickly you need to consume a fast acting, high glycemic carbohydrate source. Consuming a fast acting carbohydrate source refuels your glycogen levels FAST.
The best high glycemic carbs to enjoy after your workout
Dextrose – Dextrose is a naturally occurring form of glucose, which can be rapidly absorbed into your bloodstream and requires no digestion. It raises blood sugar levels quickly. A scoop into your post-workout shake is usually all you need.
Maltodextrin – Another high GI carbohydrate like dextrose, maltodextrin is actually more of a complex carbohydrate, digesting a little slower than dextrose due to its structure but will deliver the same effect.
Banana – Natures power carb! Full of digestible carbohydrates and potassium a banana is a tasty treat and a great post-workout carbohydrate.
Restoring your muscle glycogen levels as fast and efficiently as you can after training is imperative for muscular growth and recovery. When glycogen is effectively stored in your muscle cells, it pulls water into those cells, which in turn increases the muscle cell volume and therefore muscle fibre fullness giving your muscles a pumped and healthy look.
What is more, consuming a high-glycaemic carbohydrate provides an insulin spike because it gets into your blood stream faster elevating your glycogen levels.
Sometimes if you have trained a little too hard you may feel a bit faint or light headed, this is because your blood glucose levels are too low so consuming a fast acting carbohydrate is the best way to get it back up. Research has also indicated that consuming high GI carbs immediately after a workout may boost protein synthesis.
Fine tuning your diet and ensuring you are eating the best carbohydrate foods for training, be it pre-workout or post-workout, knowledge is power. Selecting the correct carbs will not only enhance your workout as your body is powered with enough energy, they will also ensure your fast recovery and general feelings of wellness.