Carbohydrates – An energy fuel.
Whatever you are doing your body needs energy, but when you exercise, you need more of it and faster! However it’s vital you get your energy intake right. Too much and body fat increases. Too little and your health and performance are at risk.
The three main energy fuels for exercise are CARBOHYDRATES, FAT AND PROTEIN. Each of these nutrients are found in differing amounts in foods and are broken down in the body to provide a certain quantity of energy – measured as kilo calories ( kcal) per gram (g):
The amount of each fuel you use during exercise depends on a variety of factors such as: the type of exercise, the intensity, duration and frequency of training sessions and your fitness level and dietary intake.
ANAEROBIC (without oxygen) activities only use carbohydrate, whereas AEROBIC (with oxygen) activities use all three fuels – although protein is used to a lesser extent than carbohydrate and fat.
HOWEVER, the preferred energy fuel for the muscles is carbohydrate, because it powers intense exercise for prolonged periods. Whatever type of exercise you do, your body will always use some glucose for energy.
Simply, if we start to exercise at a low intensity, we initially burn carbohydrates, but soon begin to burn greater amounts of fat. The fitter we are, the sooner we utilize a greater percentage of fat. As the intensity of exercise lifts, we begin to use an increased amount of carbohydrates. During very intense exercise, we will rely completely on carbohydrates as energy. Therefore low intensity burns predominately Carbohydrates.
Glucose and Glycogen;
When we eat a meal that contains CHO, it is eventually converted into glucose. Our bodies store glucose in two places, the liver and the muscles. Once it is stored, it is converted into glycogen. The body can only store a limited amount of glycogen, so the stores need to be kept topped up to avoid fatigue. Glycogen stored in the muscles, i.e. the Biceps Brachia, will be utilized and once depleted, the muscle will experience fatigue. Glycogen stored in the liver is broken down into glucose upon demand and is released back into the blood, to provide a constant supply of energy to the brain. So, if you are serious about your training it is absolutely vital you make Carbohydrate rich foods the focus of your daily diet.