Sunday, 19 January 2014

What are carbohydrates and how are they good for triathletes:

What are carbohydrates and how are they good for triathletes: 

As soon as you take part into any sport and want to do it seriously the diet becomes just as important as the physical training. Without the necessary correct fuelling no athlete can perform and improve his skills. 
In this post about nutrition we will examine in simple steps what carbohydrates are, where we can it and how it is good for the body.

What are carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates are organic compounds created by plants through photosynthesis and taken up by the body to make glucose, which is the fuel our body needs for muscle contractions. If the glucose does not need to be used it will be stored in the liver and the muscles as a form of glycogen. If the glycogen storages are filled up any extra storage will be fat. 
Glycogen is essential for short period intense muscle movement such as for weight lifting. Also in the first minute of a triathlon glycogen storages will be used up. 

Taking up sufficient carbohydrates into the body will prevent using proteins as a source of energy. Because the role of proteins is building blocks for muscles, bones, hair, skin, other tissues. 
Furthermore with sufficient carbohydrate uptake it is possible to shift back the wall of fatigue significantly. 

If the body does not take up enough carbohydrates compared to proteins it will limit the ability to build and maintain tissues. In other words performance will be reduced and the ability to improve skills.  

Therefore in a triathletes diet 50% to 60% should be carbohydrates. 

What is the difference between simple and complex carbohydrates? 

Simple carbohydrates - are absorbed and converted rapidly by the body and provide a quick source of energy. They are found in fruits and dairy products, are more easily digested by the body.

  • White bread/rice
  • White pasta
  • Quinoa
  • Yoghurt
  • Milk (low fat)
  • Chocolate milk
  • Dried fruits
  • Banana
  • Apple
Complex carbohydrates - Takes longer for the body to absurd and digest, also take longer to breakdown. Therefore provides a slower source of energy. Very important in long distance races.
  • Beans 
  • Sweet potato
  • Noodles
  • Brown rice
  • Whole pasta/bread
  • Corn products
What is carbo-loading, and how is it effective? 

Carbohydrate loading is the high quantity intake of carbohydrate nutrients a couple of days before the race.
Usually the 3 days leading up to a long (90+ minutes) race distance athletes will take up high amount of complex carbohydrates. By doing so they are loading the body with long lasting energy that can be used during the race. As said previously it will also push back the barrier of fatigue mentally and physically.
The type of carbohydrates is also important go for carbs with a medium level of fibers, and avoid processed foods.
Go for: Whole pasta/bread, brown rice, lean proteins, vegetables and fruits.
I myself always take 3 days for carbo-loading and really feel the difference if I have done it or not. If you haven't done it you may feel hungry and sudden fall in energy levels during the race.

"You can keep going and your legs might hurt for a week or you can quit and your mind will hurt for a lifetime." 
Mark Allen (6x Ironman World Champion)

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