It is ok to eat carbohydrates!
The question is not if you need carbohydrates, but how much. It IS okay to eat carbohydrates and necessary to consume them as an athlete.
There are many articles and diets which label carbohydrates as ‘bad’. For athletes, both men and women, carbohydrates are needed for performance – in training, racing and recovery. Too much or too little will lead to GI distress or fatigue and less than stellar results.
I am going to generalize here as nutrition needs are different for every person in both how many calories you may need and what kind of carbohydrates you need. What you may not know, is that depending on the type of every day nutrition you have outside of training, your carbohydrate needs will change.
Let’s say you eat a bagel for breakfast with cream cheese, and a sandwich for lunch and pasta with red sauce for dinner, with a bar as an afternoon snack With this type of daily nutrition plan, your body will be utilizing more sugar for energy and you will need a higher amount of calories during training. Your caloric requirement may be in the 175-250 calories per hour (about 45-65 g carbs).
Alternatively, let’s say you eat eggs, sautéed spinach, cheese and a piece of toast or roasted potatoes for breakfast, a salad with chicken and croutons or a roll (and yes, dressing) for lunch, a bar or handful of nuts for your snack and salmon, steamed broccoli and bit of potatoes with butter for dinner. These are more balanced meals, which may allow your body to utilize fat stores for energy rather than just sugar stores. In this case, your caloric needs may drop to 150-200 calories per hour (about 35-50 grams carbs).
Lastly, let’s say you eat an egg with cheese and spinach for breakfast, chicken, avocados and some beans for lunch, then a protein smoothie snack and turkey burgers with salad and dressing for dinner.
You may be scared to eat carbohydrates so you avoid them during training. You need 150-200 calories, too or you’ll run out of ‘gas’.
You need some carbohydrates to keep yourself fueled. The first person may feel like they are hungry all the time, and sensitive to any kind of missed opportunity to eat. Their blood sugar needs constant attention. The second may be happy with where they are and feel comfortable with 1-2 hour session eating a nibble every 30 minutes or so. While the third, is usually able to last an hour losing energy and stamina due to the lack of intake of any foods. (note * this person may also need more electrolytes on this keto-style protocol).
The carbohydrates we take in while we are training can include real food (potatoes, dates, pb sandwiches, etc), gels, bars, and sports drinks. That carbohydrate intake should be 20-50 grams of all those combined. For example, if you drink a sports drink, then add half a bar or a gel, you may exceed what you need. But if you just have a sports drink, it may not be enough.
The tendency is to forget you need to fuel for the 2+ hours of the event, yet training is only an hour. Start with just a little bit of carbohydrate every 15-20 minutes. Start with testing what will be offered on the course. If Gatorade is the choice, and you don’t like it or it doesn’t agree with you, there are other options. (read my post about not using Gatorade for an Ironman).
Base Performance is a recent favorite with Real Bars, Hydro sports drink (peach mango – yum!) and Base Salt electrolytes powder. They are great tasting, easy to digest and have some really great flavors!
I also like Infinit Nutrition – they make custom electrolyte and recovery drink mixes. you can increase electrolytes, decrease the sugars and even choose the combination of sugars and proteins. Use the discount code nutritionimotion for 10% off!
Carbohydrates are really your friend. It really IS ok to eat carbohydrates. Learning how much you need and which carbs are best for you can often feel like an art rather than a science. If you need help with fueling the optimal way for you, please contact me directly.