Composed of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen, carbohydrates are one of the body’s three natural energy sources along with Proteins and Fats. Carbohydrates are often cited as a natural source of physical energy, but they also provide mental energy to the brain, as glucose, one of the simplest carbohydrates is essentially the only fuel the brain uses. Their function does not stop here - many types of carbohydrates also contain fibre, which maintains healthy metabolism and bowel movements.
Carbohydrates are stored in the body as glycogen, which is present in muscles and the Liver. The liver can store about 100 grams of glycogen, while 200 grams are usually present in the muscles. As the liver is much smaller, the concentration of glycogen is a lot higher than that of the muscles. Once these organs have stored the maximum amount of glycogen, any excess is converted into fat. For this reason, many fad diets exclude carbohydrates from the menu, which may assist in fat loss but results in a lack of energy and can cause the subject to become fatigued and irritable. There are two main forms of carbohydrates; simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates are commonly referred to as simple sugars and can be found naturally in fruit, milk (lactose) and sugar. Simple carbohydrates are digested quickly, but will leave you feeling hungry sooner in comparison to complex carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates can be found in bread, pasta, potatoes, rice, cereal and beans. They are generally considered the “good” form of carbohydrates, as they are high in fibre and other Vitamins & Minerals and take longer to digest, thus providing a more enduring energy source.
When should carbohydrates be consumed? Complex carbohydrates achieve better results when consumed before and after workouts – not during. During a workout, Sports Drinks such as Powerade and Gatorade are a good source of simple carbohydrates if you need a burst of Energy. Alternatively, there are many forms of carbohydrate supplements that are suitable to consume while training. The recommended daily intake of carbohydrates varies depending on the amount of calories one consumes and how much exercise is performed. As a general rule, 45 to 60 per cent of the average person’s calorie intake should be made up of carbohydrates1. Carbohydrates contain four calories per gram, so if, for example, a person had a daily calorie intake of 2000, their carbohydrate intake should be about 225 to 300 grams per day. This figure will be significantly higher for athletes as more calories would be consumed daily. A gruelling training session can burn through the body’s store of glycogen, which is why it is normal to feel tired, or even exhausted after a workout. For people such as athletes and strength trainers who regularly participate in hard exercise, it is not always possible to consume enough carbohydrates in a day. This is why many turn to carbohydrate supplements to avoid poor performance and fatigue. Experts suggest that to make the most out of carbohydrate supplements post training, one should consume between 0.5g-1g of fast acting carbs per kilogram of bodyweight.2
While many people choose to use supplements such as protein powder as Meal Replacement Shakes, it is generally recommended that carbohydrate supplements only be used in addition to food. It would be extremely difficult for an athlete to eat enough carbohydrate rich food to produce a sufficient amount of energy for training. There is simply not enough time in the day and even if there were, complex carbohydrates are quite heavy, which would potentially cause discomfort during exercise if they were over consumed. Carbohydrate supplements can contribute up to 100 grams in just a few spoonfuls sprinkled on your breakfast, lunch and/or dinner. Carbohydrate supplements perform a variety of functions and come in a range of forms. They are predominantly used by athletes and strength trainers for energy or by people aiming to Gain Weight.
Carbohydrate Supplements are commonly presented & sold as Formulated Supplementary Sports Foods in Australia. Carbohydrate supplements are not a sole source of nutrition and should be used in conjunction with an appropriate physical training or exercise programme. Not suitable for children or pregnant women. Should only be used under medical or dietetic supervision. Always read label prior to use.1. National Health and Medicine Research Council. ‘Nutrient Reference Values’ http://www.nrv.gov.au/. Last Accessed April 2012