To carb or not to carb, that is the question
Over the years, low-carb diet trends have made carbohydrates unpopular. But active people need unrefined carbs, says Toronto-based registered dietitian Leslie Beck. Beck explains that while you can survive on a low-carb diet, you risk not getting enough fibre and other nutrients, and you’ll also lack fuel for exercise.
Carbs are our primary source of energy, stored as glycogen in the muscles. For the average individual, however, there’s only enough glycogen stored for 90 minutes of physical activity. Performance may suffer once glycogen depletes, explains Beck. If your daily diet contains adequate carbohydrate-rich foods like whole grains, fruit and root vegetables, there should be enough glycogen stored for about an hour of moderate cardio exercise, like running, brisk walking or cycling.
If your workout will be intense or long, however, Beck recommends a 100- to 200-calorie carb snack 45 to 60 minutes before exercise, particularly if it involves strength training like weights or circuit training. After a workout, muscles are most receptive to incoming carbs within 30 to 60 minutes. This is an ideal time to replenish the glycogen consumed from exercise, Beck advises.
If you won’t be eating for over an hour post-exercise, have a carbohydrate snack after your cardio workout. After a strength workout, add protein as well—yogurt with fruit is a good option—to help repair and rebuild muscle tissue.