Carbohydrates: your essential fitness friend
By Mary du Heaume – Dietitian APD, HBF Member Health Coach
The HBF Fitness sessions are a great place to start and continue building your fitness. Fuelling your body well will ensure you make the most of the sessions.
But, how do we provide our bodies with the right mix of food to optimise our performance and recovery?
Firstly, you are going to need energy to get your brain functioning and those muscles working (including your most important muscle – the heart). In order for this to happen you are going to need some carbohydrates (aka “carbs”). Our muscle cells prefer glucose as an energy source, which is provided by the breakdown of carbs. Carbs for our exercising muscles can come from starches and sugars in food or from glucose stored in the muscle.
If you run low on glucose your body can use muscle protein or body fat as an energy source but these are not as efficient and can result in fatigue. Choosing to get more nutrients for your mouthful as part of your everyday diet means including high nutrient quality carbohydrate sources. In doing this most of the time, you will be able to enjoy your planned physical activity.
Eat the right foods at the right time
Carbs can be found in many types of foods including fruit, starchy vegetable, wholegrain bread, pasta, milk and yoghurt. Some examples of a carbohydrate rich meal or snack include:
• Fruit salad & yoghurt
• Baked beans on toast
• Whole grain pastas
• Brown rice
• Whole grain breads or pancakes
These types of food are good to eat before exercising as they will provide a steady release of carbs for your muscles. Just remember to leave at least half an hour before getting active to avoid any tummy aches and feeling sick. If you don’t like to eat a full meal before your session try a light snack such as a banana or a glass of milk.
It is best to limit the poorer quality carbs made from refined flour and sugar. Products made with white flour, as well as highly-processed sugary drinks, lollies and desserts often have very few nutrients and don’t provide a long lasting supply of glucose to your working muscles – meaning you may “crash” half way through your exercise session.
For further information on recommended Australian healthy eating guides visit the Australian Government’s Eat for Health website.
The content of this article is not tailored for any particular individual’s circumstances. The author does not take into account your physical condition, medical history or any medication you may be taking. Any advice or information provided by the author cannot replace the advice of your health care professional. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent those of HBF unless clearly indicated.