Nutrition is one of the most important components of training for performance. The largely held belief that sugar and carbohydrates are bad for athletes has been debunked!
Many studies show that carbohydrates are one of the best ways for an athlete to replenish glycogen stores in the muscles. If an athlete doesn’t have enough glycogen stored in the muscle, power output is directly affected. Without enough glycogen, the muscle becomes fatigued, you don’t get enough work in, your energy expenditure becomes affected, then you don’t lose weight or get stronger. It’s a vicious cycle athletes fall into when they think they have to lose weight to be better at sports or lose weight to be healthier.
So how do you ensure you’ve got enough glycogen stored up in your cells for optimal energy output? Eat carbohydrates and at the right times.
When carbohydrates are consumed in healthy individuals, insulin, a hormone that controls blood sugar levels, is released in order to get glucose out of the blood and into the cells. Once this process takes place, glucose is stored as glycogen. That tired feeling after you workout is a signal to your body that blood sugar levels have dipped. This is a perfect time to utilize post workout fuel.
You can replenish your glycogen stores by consuming more carbohydrates after you workout, causing your body to release insulin and bring your blood sugar levels back down. This will simultaneously trigger glucose to be stored as glycogen in the cells. Since the cells that are fatigued and depleted are your muscle cells, storage will happen in your muscles instead of your liver. As an added bonus to hypertrophy, the next time you go to use your muscles they’ll be contracting at full energy capacity.
In certain circumstances, for example if an athlete has diabetes, consuming these types of carbohydrates won’t have the desired effect. If an athlete is not insulin sensitive or has diabetes, spikes in blood sugar levels will stay elevated after eating carbohydrates. This can result in elevated LDL or bad cholesterol and high blood pressure. A diabetic body simply can’t handle the sugars and isn’t releasing insulin in order to store it into the cells. There is a solution to the exception. As a diabetic, you would work directly with a medical professional and be prescribed insulin since the body is not producing it on its own.
You may be wondering how you can increase your insulin sensitivity to optimize your response to elevated blood sugar levels and maximize your muscle growth and global energy. There are a few key factors to consider around your workout that will help.
It’s important to tend to your overall health. The more stressed your body, the harder normal daily functions and internal reactions will be. We are aiming for optimal here. Make sure you’re doing the following to keep your blood sugar levels in check:
We all know how important sleep is. It can impact every function in the body, especially the release of insulin. Aim for 8 hours a night of good quality sleep. Try sleeping with a sleep mask to eliminate any extra light in the room or a hot tea before bed to wind down.
This is one of the most important components for staving off disease. Aim for at least 30 minutes a day. Studies have shown that this is an excellent way to decrease your risk of developing insulin resistance and diabetes along with a plethora of other diseases!
- Eat a Balanced and Healthy Diet
Aim for a variety of fruits and vegetables on a daily basis. Eat healthy fats, like omega-3 found in fish and seeds, avocados, and nuts. Avoid saturated fats when possible and drink plenty of water.
The big takeaway here is that carbohydrates are friends and food! Get in touch with someone who can help you navigate the waters of carbohydrate timing around workouts if you’re looking to improve your power output and physique.