Lately, carbs have been put on the shelf after dramatic entrances of regimes like the ketogenic and paleo diet. Protein and fats have further popularized for weight-loss strategies, and carbohydrates seem to be slipping out of many diets altogether.
But while everyone’s steering clear of carbs, they’re likely avoiding a healthier life—and better post-workout recovery.
The Truth About Carbs
There are three equally-important macronutrients that make up our diets: fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. Carbohydrates come in three categories as well: sugars, starches, and fibers.
Free sugars are the sugars we find in sodas and candies—the added sugars we should generally stay away from. Sugars in nectars, fruit juices, and syrups do occur naturally, but they still fall into the realm of free sugars. A natural, healthy sugar would be the sugar you’d get from eating strawberries or carrots.
Starch provides us with slow-release energy throughout the day, and fiber regulates your system while cleaning out your colon.
Completely removing carbs from your diet means you’re turning your back on many important nutrients, which may put you at risk for health problems. And if you’re replacing carbs with certain fats, that’s another problem area, as raising your fat intake can raise your cholesterol, putting you at greater risk for heart disease.
Protein Vs. Carbs for Post-Workout Recovery
Protein is a buzzword of post-workout recovery, but many people consume too much protein after a workout, which can also lead to negative health outcomes, including too much ammonia in your bloodstream. Chronic overconsumption of protein can also put your liver and kidneys at risk, and may be a harbinger of cardiovascular disease.
Protein is a necessary nutrition source, but science has spoken and proclaims carbs the winner of post-workout recovery. In fact, a recent study published by PubMed outlined how a combination of glucose and fructose can refresh you twice as fast than consuming one or the other—and how carbohydrates are the gateway to speedy recovery. We need to refocus our post-workout calories on carbohydrate-rich foods with both glucose and fructose.
Carbohydrate restriction will result in decreased insulin production—that’s why on a low-carb diet, you’ll feel sluggish—especially for the first few weeks. And a decrease in the amount of insulin means glucose, protein, and creatine won’t be able to penetrate your cell walls. Case and point: you won’t be able to work out if you feel terrible and have no energy.
Carbs, however, will contribute to insulin production—and eating medium to high-glycemic carbs after a workout can bring you into recovery mode much faster than protein alone.
Best Post-Workout Carbs
After a workout, it’s recommended to stick to a 4:1 carb-to-protein ratio for muscle recovery. And some of the best moderate to high glycemic options to replace low post-workout glycogen stores are the following:
Greek yogurt with berries and granola
Low-fat chocolate milk
Carbs are our friends! Don’t make the mistake of snipping them from your life and missing out on muscular and health benefits. Make room for plenty of carbs in your post-workout recovery plan and watch as your muscles tone and your energy levels spike.
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