Diet culture and fads have tried to cancel carbs, but scientific data has proven them to be essential to athletic performance.
Carbs refuel your body with the macros you need to help it recover and fuel up for the next training session.
In this article, we'll talk about the importance of post workout nutrition and the role that fast digesting carbohydrates play.
- Fast digesting carbohydrates increase your blood sugar quickly after consumption.
- The glycemic index measures how fast the digestion process occurs.
- Eating fast digesting carbohydrates post workout is beneficial for maintaining glycogen stores.
WHAT ARE FAST DIGESTING CARBOHYDRATES?
When consumed, carbohydrates are broken down into simple sugars, or glucose, to use as the body’s primary energy source. This energy is available for use immediately, but it can also be stored in the form of glycogen for later use.
Unfortunately, those glycogen stores become depleted during intense athletic training, requiring you to replenish with more fuel.
Fast digesting carbs, sometimes called simple carbs, are digested rapidly and quickly absorbed into your bloodstream. This quick absorption leads to increased blood sugar and a quick boost of energy.
Maximizing the benefits offered by fast digesting carbs is all about timing. These carbohydrates can boost energy before physical activity, but they can also help support muscle maintenance and growth after a workout. It all depends on when you eat them.
There are quite a few options in the carbohydrate category, but it’s important to remember that some are better known to improve muscle recovery after vigorous activity.
- Dextrose: simple sugar made from corn or wheat and almost chemically identical to glucose
- Galactose: commonly found in milk and yogurt
- Fructose: a sugar found mainly in fruits, vegetables, and some grains
- Lactose: milk sugar with a combination of glucose and galactose
- Maltodextrin: an easy-to-digest carb created from tapioca, rice, corn, wheat, or potato starch
FAST DIGESTING CARBS AND THE GLYCEMIC INDEX
The glycemic index is a tool used to measure how quickly foods raise your blood glucose.
High glycemic foods enter your bloodstream and increase your blood glucose quicker and more significantly than low glycemic foods.
Fast digesting carbohydrates are considered high glycemic foods, but not all fast digesting carbs serve the body in the same way.
For example, white bread, white rice, and pasta will provide a more beneficial energy boost than less nutrient-dense foods such as cookies and candy.
While you don’t have to restrict yourself from eating a carbohydrate “treat” now and then, it is best to avoid these types of foods in exercise settings. For example, cookies, cakes, and candy all have very little fiber content, so they tend to spike your blood sugar, and your body burns through them quickly without much difficulty. Additionally, these foods don’t offer other benefits, such as supplying essential vitamins and minerals.
GOOD EXAMPLES OF FAST DIGESTING CARBS:
- Sweet Potato
- Starchy Vegetables
- Bagels and Crackers
While balanced nutrition allows for all foods, the timing and types of carbohydrate intake do matter. Unfortunately, most people turn to fast digesting carbs when snacking, which can lead to weight gain and blood sugar issues long term.
When choosing snacks between meals, it’s best to choose foods with slower digesting carb content to allow for a more gradual release of energy and save fast digesting carbs for pre-or post-workout nutrition.
WHY YOU NEED FAST DIGESTING CARBS POST WORKOUT
During a workout, your body uses the glycogen stored in your muscles as fuel. However, these glycogen stores become depleted as you work, leaving you fatigued.
Therefore, replenishing your glycogen stores is vital to the success of your next workout.
While things like whole grains, beans, legumes, and other slow digesting carbs all offer outstanding nutritional benefits, it’s best to avoid eating them before and after exercise because they require so much more effort to digest.
We want to prioritize energy output to our muscles during training, not to digestion. Same with post-workout recovery. We want our body to use the energy we consume to repair broken-down muscles.
Fast digesting carbohydrates are ideal for repleting low glycogen stores after strenuous exercise because they are quickly absorbed into the bloodstream and produce energy fast.
Ideally, you should aim to refuel with proper nutrition no longer than 30-60 minutes after completing your workout. During this post-workout window, your muscles are like sponges, soaking up the nutrition you supply intended for that recovery.
MALTODEXTRIN’S ROLE IN RECOVERY
While all carbohydrates can supply the body with energy, some work faster to restore lost glycogen after an intense workout.
Maltodextrin is a polysaccharide, meaning it comprises many sugar molecules and is high on the glycemic index which helps push carbohydrates directly into the bloodstream so that your muscles can absorb it and store it for future use.
It’s made from corn, rice, or potato starch and can be an essential component in many high-quality supplements.
After a hard-hitting workout, a quick and easy way to benefit from maltodextrin is to drink a post workout supplement that uses a 3:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein immediately after training.
Carbohydrates supply us with the energy, or simple sugars, necessary to function in our day-to-day activity and to make the most of our physical fitness routine.
But it’s up to us to consume optimal sources of carbohydrates at the correct times. If we don’t replenish our glycogen stores, we won’t be ready for the next sweat.
There are many post-workout nutrition options to choose from, but finding the right product for muscle recovery doesn’t have to be overwhelming. When considering a post-exercise carbohydrate source, it’s best to look for a food or product that includes fast digesting carbohydrates, like maltodextrin.
Maltodextrin is often included in high-quality protein powders because it is an easy-to-digest carbohydrate source, meaning it does its job quickly.
Your commitment to your goals doesn’t quit at the gym. The work continues as you shift your focus to muscle recovery by supplying your body with the nutrition it needs to improve for the next gym session.