There is a lot of confusion related to the human body’s need for carbohydrates, especially during longer, more intense workout sessions.
Why are carbs the ideal fuel for the body?
Well, to put it simply: Our bodies can utilize carbs to help generate energy during rigorous exercise without the aid of oxygen, and we can eat or drink some carbs during exercise to help keep the fuel levels topped off.
Also worth note: Carb depletion is right up there with not drinking enough fluids when trying to figure out why we sometimes bonk.
Before long runs or bike rides, the Alameda Runners love to eat pancakes (normally Ted’s terrific pancakes) with syrup,
For longer workouts, eating carbs days before will help ensure you have a sufficient level of carbs to help fuel you. Each night when we’re sleeping, our bodies use carbs to pump our heart, help keep our bodies breathing, and general physiological requirements that we sometimes take for granted.
Here is what a Runners World story posted a few years back had to say:
What you need are carbohydrates,” says Deborah Shulman, Ph.D., a sports nutritionist in Bellvue, Colorado. Carbs are a good source of glucose, a form of sugar that our brain, nerves, and muscles need to function. A small amount of glucose circulates in our blood, but the majority of it is stored in our muscles and liver as glycogen.
If you’re in it for the long run, consuming carbohydrates and keeping hydrated will give you the energy boost to run stronger during you half marathon or marathon. Many of us drink Cytomax, Gatorade, and similar drinks that have electrolytes, but drinks with carbs can help keep you fueled.
To sum things up: enjoying some carbs during your prolonged workout can help ensure you run or ride stronger with less likelihood of physically cracking. You should also keep in mind that protein and fats are excellent fuel sources, so you shouldn’t go too carb heavy with your workouts. (Alameda Runners plans on calling upon a local sports guru for some assistance related to properly fueling our workouts.)
To help explain further, I have some good reading material for you to quickly read:
Link courtesy of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
Link (PDF) to the US Potatoes, discussing carbs, carbo loading, and other helpful information.
Link published by Stockton College, explaining how carbs help fuel athletic performance.
Editors note: If you can only exercise for 1 hour, loading up with carbs will not give you enough energy to exercise for 4 hours. It takes time and practice to build up endurance.