The Science Behind Carbohydrates

Detailed scientific information about nutrition can be overwhelming and sometimes difficult to associate with our individual lives. Recently, requests have been made for MORE detailed information regarding the WHY of nutrition: why should I eat these foods? Why do certain foods help me more than others? Why does altering the timing of my food affect how I feel? The list goes on and on.

In particular, the WHY behind consuming carbohydrates to support fitness. Carbohydrates can sometimes be intimidating because many of them are foods we associate with gaining weight, such as breads, pastas, donuts, etc.

Our bodies need carbohydrates for energy. This means energy for normal survival functions as well as fitness. When I say carbs, I am referring to fruits, veggies, brown rice, oats, whole grain seed toast, beans, quinoa, barley, etc. Pasta and white breads do have their purposes, however their design of carbohydrates lead to quick digestion. This means that unless fitness has just happened or is about to happen (i.e. your body requires fuel), pastas and white breads will likely result in fat storage because their high amounts of carbohydrates will flood our blood stream but our bodies won’t have a use for it all at once.

Complex carbohydrates such as brown rice, quinoa, oats, sweet potatoes, whole grain seed breads, etc. are designed for slow and consistent digestion which allows our bodies to properly use them little by little without being overwhelmed and forced into storage.

No single type of food (i.e. carbs) will make you gain fat. The amount, the form, and the timing influences whether the body can use the food item properly or whether it must be stored. With that being said, too much protein and fat (or the wrong kinds) could also cause weight gain. 

Next, and most importantly, our bodies cannot digest and use protein properly without carbs. If our bodies are too low on carbs at any point throughout the day, our bodies will then either breakdown protein we have consumed or breakdown our already built muscles (back into amino acids) and use either of those in place of our carbohydrates for energy, essentially undoing or preventing muscle growth progress. 

The lesson is that carbohydrates are required for our bodies for survival as well as increasing our fitness, they should not be avoided due to fear or misunderstanding. If you have any questions about specific carbohydrates sources, amounts, or timing for you and your particular situation, please feel free to reach out at the gym or via email! (emily@crossfitfivecities.com)

If you’re interested in more, here is a great article about carbohydrates and all that they do for our bodies.

Your C5 Nutrition Intern,

Wick