Facts Regarding The Functions Of Carbohydrates

From the weekend warrior who desperately wants to beat his competitors, to one who competes at a higher level, they will do almost anything to give them that slight edge. One critical piece to getting that edge is to have your body running on all cylinders, and in order get your body in position to do that it must need fuel. Carbohydrates are typically that fuel. In essence the functions of carbohydrates are to provide you with that energy when you need it the most.

Carbohydrates are found in the breads, cereals, grains, fruits and vegetables. Some dairy products also contain a small amount of carbohydrate. Ironically foods that are high in refined sugar like candy are also high in carbohydrate, but these types of foods have little or no nutrient value towards providing energy so they are best to be avoided.

In essence carbs are processed by the body to provide glucose, which is a simple sugar. As the body breaks down this element into (glucose) it is absorbed into the bloodstream to be taken to the brain, muscles and liver. This glucose can then be used where needed depending on the resting or exercising state of the individual.

The brain relies solely on carbohydrates as a fuel source because fats and proteins cannot cross the blood brain barrier as carbohydrates can. Without an adequate source of energy, the brain slowly loses function which results in poor decision making, the ability to concentrate effectively, and reduce reaction times which could put you in serious situation. Symptoms include a light headed feeling, potentially blurred vision and changes in ones mood from moderate to significant. This is a problem for anyone in day to day life, but more so for an athlete who is trying to compete at their best.

Carbohydrates are also removed from the bloodstream by the muscles and liver and stored for future needs. In an athlete who eats a high carbohydrate diet there is usually enough fuel stored in their muscles for 60 – 120 minutes of activity. If the athlete limits their intake they also limit this period of activity. The liver also stores a small amount of carbohydrate that can be released when a just a little bit more is needed.
Carbohydrates also play a large role in recovery. Often protein is seen to be the most important part of nutritional recovery but carbs are just as important. A recovery snack or meal that is high in carbs helps to replace what has been used during exercise. If it is not replaced this leads to an overall feeling of fatigue, heavy legs or arms and at worse being unable to do an exercise session.

The body cannot store unlimited amounts of this element so it is important that an athlete eats enough before competing, throughout the day and especially after training sessions or events. To have a diet that is balanced they also need foods that are high in fiber, B vitamins, vitamin E, Vitamin C, Vitamin A, antioxidants and other minerals. The functions of carbohydrates again is to provide energy to an individual when it is most needed because this stimulate will allow them to maximize their performance, which for most people is all they want.