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Health Check: do you really need carbs to recover from exercise?

https://theconversation.com/health-check-do-you-really-need-carbs-to-recover-from-exercise-33639

theconversation.com

Health Check: do you really need carbs to recover from exercise?
Carbohydrate-rich diets are often recommended as part of exercise regimes to promote recovery and maximise performance. But recent research suggesting such foods may not help exercise recovery and their…

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Exercise and carbohydrate-rich diets

Exercise and carbohydrate-rich diets

In exercise, carbohydrate-rich diets are often recommended to promote recovery and maximise performance.

However, research suggests such foods may not help exercise recovery. There is also a potential link with carbohydrate-rich foods and metabolic diseases.

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Typical sport nutrition guidelines

Since late 1960, the energy status of muscles is deemed to be important in exercise performance.

Since carbohydrate is the preferred energy source for muscle contraction during intense exercise, sports nutrition guidelines recommend eating carbohydrate-rich food to maximise performance. The guidelines suggest eating one gram of carbohydrate for every kilogram of your body mass, each hour for four hours.

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Nutrition affects performance and recovery

  • Recovery describes the processes inside the muscles that are stimulated by the stress of exercise sessions. These processes build up and result in increased endurance and muscle growth.
  • Exercise performance describes the ability to perform exercise at a specific intensity and duration.

The current nutritional recommendations for performance may not be ideal for promoting recovery.

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Carbohydrates and endurance training

Researchers have recently observed that limiting carbohydrate intake close to endurance training sessions might promote early muscle recovery and possibly long-term improvements in endurance.

  • Studies show high carbohydrate intakes can suppress the activation of several genes linked to exercise adaptations.
  • Eating large amounts of carbohydrate during early recovery may also interfere with fat loss.
  • Restricting carbohydrates during recovery from exercise increased fat metabolism and decreased carbohydrate metabolism.

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Carbohydrates and resistance exercise

Consuming protein when doing resistance exercise is known to benefit muscle growth. Dietary carbohydrate plays little to no role in recovery from resistance exercise.

While high carbohydrate intake have traditionally been recommended to support resistance exercise performance and recovery, several studies now show that it does not further benefit recovery processes compared to protein alone.

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Potential health risks when consuming carbs

Carbohydrates have a potential role in the development of metabolic diseases, including type 2 diabetes and obesity.

Carbohydrate-rich food is thought to overstimulate the hormone insulin by causing chronically high blood sugar levels. One of the roles of insulin is blocking the use of fats as a fuel source. Insulin also promotes the storage of excess carbohydrate as fat and reduces the body's ability to control blood sugar levels. Eating a high-carbohydrate diet may increase fat mass and decrease muscle mass.

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Eating before or after you exercise

Eating before or after you exercise

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Eating before exercise

When we exercise, our bodies use energy, either supplied by carbohydrates stored in our bodies, or from the food we eat.

  • If the exercise is demanding or we exercise for a long time, we use more stored carbohydrate.
  • If your energy is low, or you're doing a longer or more demanding session, consuming carbohydrate-rich foods such as pasta, rice, cereals or fruit three to four hours before exercise can help.
  • Eating lower glycemic index foods such as porridge oats or whole grain bread can better sustain energy during exercise.
  • Eating right before exercising could cause indigestion, cramps or nausea.
  • If your goal is building strength or muscle, eating protein before exercise may improve overall recovery responses.

Eating after exercise

Recent research shows that training in a fasted state can lead to efficient fuel use, fat burning, improved blood sugar and hormone regulation. This is helpful when training for a marathon to help delay fatigue.

  • Studies also show that eating soon after exercise can help maximise recovery, particularly eating carbohydrates.
  • But there is also evidence that eating protein during recovery can maximise muscle growth. If training is done later in the day, eating a small protein meal before bed can help with acute recovery.

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  • Autophagic processes can be initiated by fasting, protein restriction and carbohydrate restriction.