There are carbohydrates in lots of foods, however in this post let’s talk specifically about starchy carbohydrates. Foods that fall under this umbrella include bread, pasta, rice, potatoes and oats to name a few!
Often carbohydrates and weight gain might be heard in the same sentence. However, because of their palatable nature it is overconsumption of these foods rather than the foods themselves that can cause weight gain. Another important point to note with regards to carbohydrates is that they can cause water retention. In fact, for every 1g of carbohydrate stored, the body also retains 3g of water. This may result in bloating and an increase in the number on the scales, however this is not a reflection of your true body weight.
In terms of performance, carbohydrates are our main fuel source during high-intensity exercise. Before an intense training session, have an additional portion of carbohydrates in your pre-training meal. This will help to provide fuel for this activity. A good visual aid to use when measuring your portion of carbohydrates is your fist. 1 fist = 1 portion of carbohydrates. An important factor to consider when trying to determine carbohydrate intake is activity levels. Intake should be adjusted based on activity levels. For example, a sedentary 25-year old adult will require less carbohydrates than a 25-year old who plays inter county football.
It is important to recognise what type of high-intensity exercise requires increased carbohydrate consumption. For example, a mixed meal (containing carbohydrates, protein and fat) will provide sufficient energy for a 60 minute weight session however an increase in carbohydrates is recommended for a 60-90 minute pitch session.
So what can you do to improve variety?
- Opt for brown/whole meal alternatives where possible as these contain more fibre. This will help to increase the nutrient density of your meal.
- Alter your sources – are you a pasta/bread fiend? While pasta and bread are both excellent sources of carbohydrates they are not as nutrient dense as some of the other choices e.g rice/oats. Switching up your sources every so often means you get different nutrients. For example, sweet potato contains more vitamin A than quinoa, which has more iron per 100g.
Despite what various online sources and the media might say, carbohydrates are not the enemy and should be included as part of a well-balanced diet. Intake will be dictated by activity levels – opt for extra fruit & veg on your plate if you have a more sedentary lifestyle!