Carbs and I go Running

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Carbohydrates are the sugars, starches and fibers found in fruits, grains, vegetables and milk products. Though often maligned in trendy diets, carbohydrates — one of the basic food groups — are important to a healthy diet (livescience.com). They are to runners what crack is to an addict. We crave it..we need it..we can’t run without it – not efficiently anyway. Bad analogy I know but you get the point. While many diet fads are trying their darnest to get folks out there to quit the carbs as a requirement for weight loss, so not true by the way, we pack it on in the name of running; and so what if we actually enjoy it.

Good Carbs                                                                                                                                        Carbs are good, scratch that, carbs are great for you. They are a necessary ingredient to your diet and a main source of energy for runners. In fact, tired, fatigued, listless, unable to complete your running workouts of late? It could well mean your diet is low in this primary fuel source. Numerous studies and information by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics particularly support a diet rich in whole grains and protein for athletes. While I am well aware that we are all in the days of counting calories, it is important to note that the emphasis is on simple carbs with naturally  occurring sugars like those found in dairy, fruit, vegetables, legumes and some whole grains (these provide more of a quick bursts of energy) and your more complex carbs or starchy foods like potatoes, corn and other whole grains. These provide more sustained energy levels needed to carry you through your workouts and runs.

Carbing Up with Power Carbs                                                                                                      Most runners readily agree that carbing up is all part of the marathon training plan and should come into play just around the same time as tapering does – 2 weeks out from the big day.  The truth is carbs are a steady part of my diet throughout the year; all I do different now that race day is fast approaching is be a bit more focused in my selections, which just means eating more carbs as I tone down my running and thus storing up on my energy level, as much as possible, for the marathons. Some of the best carbs, which can be taken pre, post and during workouts to boost up and recover include: bananas, berries, old-fashioned oats, whole wheat pasta, tomato sauce, whole grain bread, energy bars, Gatorade, brown rice and low-fat yogurt (competitor.com).

An Evolving World not so much an Evolving Diet                                                                 The world has evolved from diets  once thought of as either vegan or omnivore as most of us were. Changing times have seen the advance of gluten-free, paleo and other types of diets, most with the aim of getting you to eat healthier, which is a laudable thought if only it is wholesome and sustainable. While each person is different and may respond differently to different foods, a proper and healthy diet consist of carbohydrates. All things in moderation being the watch words. As such, I’m having a guilt-free, carb-enhanced two weeks and have only two words for you,  simply decadent😜.

Why Carbs are good for your Running

Source: active.com

Source: active.com

You’ve probably heard it enough – lose the carbs, lose the weight – that you’re thinking carbohydrates is your worst enemy. Most diets and diet-fads alike support the theory that carbs contribute to weight gain when in truth it is calories and consuming more than you burn that does that. On the other hand, carbohydrates are necessary for the proper functioning of your body. In fact, The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that carbohydrates make up 45% to 60% of your daily calories. So, if you get 2,000 calories a day, between 900 to 1,300 should be from carbohydrates (The Mayo Clinic).

The Power to Choose (Wisely)
The problem is that not all carbs are created equal and so, it comes down to choosing your carbs wisely. Generally, nutritionists agree with choices that include whole grains and fruits and vegetables while watching your intake of naturally occurring sugar, and restricting foods with refined gains and added sugars. Particularly for the runner though, a diet rich in carbohydrates can help maximize training and performance; emphasis should be on the kind of carbs chosen, such as whole grains, beans, fresh fruit, milk and vegetables. The benefits of whole grain to your general health and wellbeing will be the subject of a later post, but suffice to say for now, your quality of life depends on it.

Power for the Run
Carbs are the brain’s main source of energy and the body’s preferred fuel source says dietician and strength coach Marie Spano R.D., C.S.C.S. It is the primary source for producing energy for all exercise including both long distance and resistance training. It follows that if you cut carbs, your energy will drop. Spano advises that decreasing the levels of your body’s stored carbohydrates will decrease your ability to produce force and power; we know the result of that.

A Running Times article on Runners World titled “Fueling the Runner: Carbohydrates –Battling a Bad Rep” by Jackie Dikos, R.D. and 2:45 marathoner, highlight a key issue that unsuspecting runners fall prey to – fatigue. She stipulates that further investigation of such a complaint may reflect a diet lacking in carbohydrates the cause of fatigue either purposely done, as part of low carb diet, or with the runner totally in the dark as to the amount of carbs needed to perform efficiently. As already stated, our bodies prefer carbohydrates as the main fuel source when we run. But did you know that if it is not present, the body will convert fat and protein into carbs for energy. According to Dikos, this is a very inefficient form of energy for an endurance athlete. When you don’t eat enough carbohydrates and continue training, your body snowballs into a state of mental and physical fatigue.

We Determine Carbs
We see then that carbohydrates are thus fuel for runners. For running efficiently and effectively we therefore need to throw away all our misgivings, all the misinformation and misrepresentation about carbs that we’ve sucked up for so long. No low-carb or no-carb diet can do the trick of making us the runners we wish to be, our responsibility is to make healthy food choices. Balance, variety and moderation should be our watchwords.

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