Carbohydrates and Weight Lifting: Why it is Beneficial to Eat Carbs After a Workout

Weight lifting is a fantastic way to build muscle and strength, tone and define, and increase weight loss. But like all exercise, it requires fuel and energy to not only complete a workout but to repair the body in preparation for your next training session. One of the best ways to refuel your body post workout is with carbohydrates.

Why carbohydrates are important

Carbohydrates are an important source of fuel and energy regardless of the type or amount of exercise you do. When you eat carbohydrates, the body breaks it down into glucose which is then transported around your body in your blood to supply energy to your brain, nervous system, and of course, your muscles. Once it arrives in your muscles and liver, glucose is then converted into glycogen – the body’s primary source of fuel.

When you workout, whether it’s a run, swim, or weight lifting session, your body will use the glycogen stored in your muscles for energy. Generally, your body will try to hold on to a little glycogen during a workout but there are occasions where people will completely deplete their muscles of all their glycogen (this is known as ‘hitting the wall’). Therefore, it is very important to replenish your glycogen levels after exercise and the best way to do that is by consuming carbohydrates.

When to eat carbohydrates after a workout

When it comes to replacing your glycogen levels after a workout, the first few hours are the best time eat and drink foods rich in carbohydrates. The best type of carbohydrate to eat at this time is known as high GI carbohydrates. In recent years the GI factor (or glycemic index) of carbohydrate foods has been the best way to rate foods to ensure you are eating the right type. Carbohydrate foods with a score of more than 70/100 are considered high GI and the best source of carbohydrate to both fuel and refuel your body.

Eating or drinking 50 grams of high GI carbohydrates as soon as possible after exercise is the best way to help your body refuel and recovery from your workout. Examples of foods to consume include Gatorade/Powerade, white bread, cornflakes, watermelon, honey, baked potatoes, and lollies. Other options of moderate GI foods (between 40-70) include rice, pasta, popcorn, orange juice, bananas, corn, and baked beans.

You may find it difficult to eat soon after a workout so sports drinks may be the best solution at first, then followed up an hour or two hours later with some moderate to high GI foods.  Doing so will allow your body to make the most of the carbohydrates and glucose provided and ensure your glycogen stores are well and truly replenished in preparation for your next training session.

Despite the bad wrap they get from some circles, carbohydrates are your friend when it comes to recovery and training preparation. Consuming carbohydrate rich foods after your workout is the best way to ensure your muscles have the best chance to fully repair and recover from one training session to the next.

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