As part of our Stay Active with Rowing Ireland, we will be providing daily nutritional tips and recipes!
A well-balanced diet with plenty of key micronutrients is important to the normal functioning of our immune system, but no specific food or supplement will prevent you from catching COVID-19.
There are 3 main nutrients in our food; protein, carbohydrates and fat. These are known as macronutrients and they all play a vital role in our keeping us healthy.
Today our focus is on Carbohydrate.
What is Carbohydrate?
Carbohydrate is the term used for a large group of organic compounds including sugars and starches. They are made up of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen and can usually be broken down by your body to release energy.
Carbohydrates are found in most foods, but high carbohydrate foods include fruit and vegetables, pasta, rice, potatoes, and bread. Wholegrain versions of these foods will contain more fibre, which helps with digestion and slows down the release of energy; these are referred to as complex carbohydrates.
Sugary foods such as biscuits, jellies, fizzy drinks and cakes are also high in carbohydrates. These foods, along with the non-wholegrain versions of the foods above, are known as simple carbohydrates and the energy will be released quickly, leading to a spike in blood sugar levels. Fruit juice and smoothies also fall into this category.
Why Do I Need Carbohydrates?
Carbohydrates are your body’s preferred source of energy. They are stored in your muscles and liver as glycogen and your body is constantly using a mixture of this glycogen and stored fat to provide you with energy. Using carbohydrates as a fuel requires less oxygen than fat, so this makes the process quicker and means that you can work at a higher intensity.
Carbohydrates also have a significant role to play in maintaining the health of your immune system.
How Much Carbohydrates Do I Need?
The amount of carbohydrates you need in your diet, and the best time to eat them, depends heavily on your goals and your activity levels.
- Sedentary – around 50% of your daily calories
- Active – around 60-65% of your daily calories
Should I Eat it All at Once?
No, that would be a lot of food to eat in one go!
You should be having some complex carbohydrates with every meal and snack. Your muscles can only store enough glycogen to last for around 70 minutes of exercise, so it is also important to make sure that you are fully topped up before you do any exercise and that you refuel afterwards. And, if it is a long training session or event (over 70 minutes), that you refuel while you are exercising. This can be done through snacks, meals, sports drinks and gels, or a combination of them all.