Here’s The 101 On Carbs

The truth about carbs

Although they have a bad reputation, carbs are an important part of a healthy diet. Here's why...

Let’s clear up the myth about carbs. What are the right kind to eat and which should we avoid altogether?

The simple answer is the less processed the better. Stick to anything that essentially comes from the ground, so rice, potatoes, fruit and vegetables. Don’t forget about things like brown rice, wild rice, sweet potatoes, yams, plantain and oats too. People often forget that vegetables are a source of carbohydrate. They’re essential and provide good fibre as well as energy. Things to avoid are any kind of processed food in your diet, so in terms of carbs – and you’ll hate me for saying it - but bread. I categorise it as a processed carb because it’s had to go into a factory or has been baked. If you find that really hard then sourdough is a better choice as it’s fermented so the wheat is more readily digestible. As with anything like this though, it does depend on the individual. Some people with gut issues do well if they remove all fruit and vegetable and grains but you really do have to figure out what works for you.

How does your body use carbs when you’re training?

It uses it as an energy source. When we consume carbs they get converted into glycogen which gets stored in the muscle cells and used immediately. Whether you’re lifting weights, sprinting or swinging a bat, the energy in the muscles you have to use to perform those movements is coming straight from that glycogen.

Are there some carbs that are especially good to eat in the morning pre-training? 

Yes, although again it’s dependent on the individual. Some people do better having carbs in their pre-workout meal in the morning and in that case you’d want it to be a type of carb which doesn’t take long to digest so you feel the benefits quickly. Things like grits are amazing, which is a bit like porridge. Another easy-to-digest, quick-releasing carb is white rice. That’s a great choice and if it seems a little off having it in the morning, think about mixing it with eggs in an omelette.

What’s the cost of not eating carbs before a workout? 

Again, it depends on the individual, but it’s commonly reported that if you don’t have any carbs pre-training then your endurance is less, and you experience reduced performance. What that means is that you’re more likely to hit a wall and could struggle to complete your programme.

If I’m not training first thing then should I include carbs in my dinner?

It depends on the goal and the individual. I see great results when people eat carbs later in the day; they help you recover better from your daytime workout. It’s often easier to fall asleep when you have carbs in your post-workout dinner too; you often get deeper, better quality sleep and that’s because carbs have a calming effect on the body. They send a signal to release the neurotransmitter serotonin, which is a feel-good brain chemical. Try pairing carbs with some protein, so chicken and rice or fish and potatoes as the combination helps improve recovery after working out. I personally prefer having some sort of starch in the evening and I rarely have an issue with falling asleep.