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Low or No Carb Diets in Athletes
  • Arati Shah

  • 03, Nov. 2020

Low or No Carb Diets in Athletes

In the recent years going off carbohydrates has become fashionable. The general view is that carbs are known to cause inflammation and can lead to weight gain. Added to this is the fact that there are books in the market that have practically convinced people to stay away from carbs in order to remain lean, healthy and active. Whether carbs are good or not is a discussion for another day, but as far as the athletes are concerned, most of the sports nutritionists do not agree to the idea of giving up on carbs. 

Carbs are the main source of energy for athletes for their brain and body to function at the optimum levels. Carbs when broken down give glucose molecules that are stored in the liver and muscles to be used as energy during physical activity. So, during training sessions as well as during competitions, carbs prevent fatigue thus allowing the athlete to perform at their peak levels for a longer period of time. 

Also, when there isn’t a sufficient intake of carbs, the body utilizes fat and muscle protein for energy. When muscle protein is used, it is prevented from doing what it is supposed to do – repair and rebuild muscle tissue which helps in muscle gain. This is again detrimental to an athlete’s performance. 

So, since carbs have the ability to enhance the performance of athletes,they are a must in every meal. It is especially important to consume carbs in the right amounts, before, during and after exercise for a serious athlete. If kid and teen athletes who are involved in high intensity exercise do not take sufficient carbs, not only their performance but also their growth can be impaired. 

If you are an athlete and are scared of the carbs, remember to ditch the simple carbs and not the complex fuel giving carbs. Healthy carbs coming from the grains are a must in a sports diet. So, follow the below routine for peak performance: 

  1. Before starting out with the workout, fuel the tank with high carb and low fat food for optimal blood sugar levels. Choices could be a fruit and oats smoothie, milk with some cereal and fruit, a banana, sandwich, etc. 

  1. If the pre exercise snack has been in place, water should suffice during the short workout. For longer events, low fat energy bars, dates, dried fruits, bananas, etc can be the fuel. 

  1. After the activity, muscles need to replenish the carbs for the next bout of activity. Some good options would be a chicken or paneer sandwich, toast and sprouts or a meal with roti, vegetable and dal / chicken / fish. 

Remember, as an athlete when you put in the hard work to improve, carbs are your best friend. Your body and brain will thank you for it and you will be able to move to the next level. Working with a fitness nutritionist can help in better management of meal plans in athletes.