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Good and Bad Carbohydrates

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  • Pages: 10
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  • Category: Nutrition

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Increasing the overall performance and endurance of athletes through is the primary aim of much of the research done on training and becoming more competitive in sports. The choosing of athlete’s food choices, essential carbohydrates needed for athletes, and the effects of consuming carbohydrates before and during competition is very important in helping with the enhancing of an athlete’s endurance and his or her exercise performance. It is critical for athletes to ingest a significant amount of carbohydrates in their bodies in order to compete at high performance levels. Carbohydrates are the main fuel source for our body, but as athletes we must know the difference between good and bad carbohydrates. Good carbohydrates are foods that do not look processed and how it looks in nature is how is it should look before being eaten. Examples of good carbohydrates are corn on the cob, whole fruits, whole grains, etc. Bad carbohydrates are highly refined sugars and carbohydrates such as white bread, white rice, white pasta, soft drinks, etc. Though carbohydrates could be seen as good or bad, neither are perfect, and both can be included in your diet but at a rate where good carbohydrates greatly exceed bad carbohydrates.

Athletes usually try to choose foods with high levels of proteins and carbohydrates. Although an athlete’s nutritional choices are influenced by the athletes’ social environment such as physical and social settings, quality, quantity, convenience, and the perceived healthiness of the foods (Long, Perry, Unruh, Lewis & Stanek-Krogstrand, 2011). A qualitative study conducted by (Long et al., 2011) attempted to create a theoretical model explaining the personal food choice processes of collegiate football players. Fifteen collegiate players were chosen consisting of 2 kickers (1 punter, 1 place kicker), 4 quarterbacks, 3 defensive backs, 2 wide receivers, and 4 lineman. Of the 15 players 4 were sophomores, 9 were juniors, and 2 were seniors.

The ethnicity of the 15 players were 10 whites, 3 were Hispanic, and 2 African Americans. The key points of this study was the amount of time the football players had towards their food choices due to balancing their academic and athletic responsibilities, how much the collegiate football players focused on eating nutritious low fat foods and being able to identify the importance of eating foods with high protein and high carbohydrates and hydrating as much as necessary to meet their nutritional needs, and how constant interactions with athletic trainers and athletes helps the athletic trainers assist players with making good food choices. Football players were personally interviewed either one on one or in focus groups where data collection was conducted in a quiet room. After the interviews were conducted with each player and the data was collected, the player’s words were used to label and explain their experiences and interactions with the food process. The results in study done by (Long et. Al., 2011) showed that football players tended to choose foods that gave fuel source for their next athletic endeavor. Understanding the need to adequately hydrated or past experience is how they choose their hydration plans. High protein foods were chosen by players believing that protein is what allowed their body to remain healthy.

Carbohydrate choices such as fruits, vegetables, rice and pasta were chosen on the athletes’ understanding of essential fuel sources for their working muscles. In conclusion, the amount of time the players had played a key factor into their food choices. Not only was the time of day important to players but also the amount of money they had at the time to spend on food. Due time, players tended to buy quick-fix meals such as one-skillet, microwaveable dinners, sandwiches, protein bars, and carbohydrate filled sports drinks. The health care professionals such as the athletic trainer should understand that athletes have personal rules and routines which are based on physical and social influences. One of the limitations of this study was using NCAA DII players compared to DI players because DII players are usually responsible for their daily food choices wise DI players are given free meal hall passes. Another limitation of the study was conducting interviews. Interviews tend to be more personal interactive than if the experiment was done by paper and pencil survey.

It was believed that with face to face interviews, the players would be more truthful with their answers to the question by the interviewer or interviewee. Future studies with this experiment should involve food choices of men’s non-contact sports or weight controlled sports such as wrestling. Also, female athletes’ food choices should also be taken into consideration. Last, a comparison between dual men’s and woman’s sports should be conducted for the reason that if we were to choose a sport like basketball for men and woman players, we would be able to see if the influencing factors are similar or not. This study affects coaches heavily due to the fact that they would like their players to the best of their abilities to eat proper food choices which in turn leads to healthier bodies and better performances on the field and in the weight room.

Carbohydrates are essential for athletes who want to perform at high levels. Whether carbohydrates have an impact on endurance sports depends on when they are to be eaten. Jeukendrup (2011) studied the effects on eating carbohydrates before competition and during competition. He also found that contributors to fatigue include depletion of carbohydrates and dehydration. Further studies by Wildman, Kerksick, and Campbell (2010) have argued that your carbohydrate intake before, during, and after your exercise is dependent upon proper timing which will help sustain performance and optimize recovery. Before exercising, consuming carbohydrates leads to better performances because it maintains blood glucose levels and maximizes glycogen stores. In a study by (Wildman, Kersick, & Campbell, 2010) shown that eating a rich carbohydrate meal within three to four hours before exercise, improves your endurance and performance, and raises your muscle glycogen before competition. It also leads to greater dependence on muscle glycogen and total carbohydrate during performance.

Likewise, in further studies by (Jeukendrup, 2011) have shown that if eating carbohydrates within an hour of competition is at choice of an athlete it should be done by eating low glycemic index foods such as all-bran cereal, brown rice, whole wheat bread, chocolate milk, cashew nuts, raw carrots, and apples. Furthermore, low glycemic foods may be preferred within an hour of competition because slow ingestion of low glycemic foods help with the availability of foods near the end of performance. Another study by Alghannam (2011) examined the combination of carbohydrates plus whey protein on football players. It has been suggested that when football players ingest carbohydrates with whey protein added to the mix, there running capacity following limited recovery from football-specific intermittent exercise was improved. It is known that most football players yield to fatigue towards the latter stages of the game. It has also been speculated that the depletion of glycogen stores is a critical factor in the onset of fatigue during the game.

The study by Alghannam (2011) used six male amateur football players ages 26, 5’10 in height, with a body mass index (BMI) of 71.5 kg. Each player was required to attend Welkin Laboratories located in United Kingdom on 4 separate occasions in a span of at least 6 days. On the first visit the players were given the preliminary measurements for each experiment. On the second, third and fourth visit the players were required to take part in 3 experiments which called for them to drink placebo (PLC), carbohydrate-protein (CHO-P), or isocaloric carbohydrate (CHO) beverages within 15 minutes prior to the exercise activity and during a simulated half-time period. Before the second, third and fourth visit players were asked not to consume any alcohol or caffeine and to refrain from any tiring exercises. They also were required to document their dietary intake within the previous 24 hours.

The reasoning for documenting their dietary intake and exercise activity was to minimize the variability in muscle glycogen concentrations and to distinguish their energy intake of the players. All beverages that were used in the experiment were of liquid form. Also, all three beverages were taste and color coordinated. Following overnight fasting, the football players were tested between 8:00am and 11 30 am to guarantee sufficient glycogen depletion before the start of the experiment. The experiment consisted of the same five fifteen minute intermittent activity cycles, immediately following repetitions to fatigue (RTF) at 80% of your oxygen consumption with a fifteen minute recovery period. The reason for this exercise being chosen was that the time to exhaustion is directly relative to elevated muscle glycogen availability. The players had blood samples taken during the second static pause of each cycle, during the simulated half-time period, and at their 15 minute rest period. The final results from the experiment showed that when the six football players ingested a mixture of carbohydrate and whey protein their running capacity is improved and restored more fully compared to when an isocaloric carbohydrate and placebo beverage is ingested and both equivalent in caloric equivalency.

Also, it was much noticeable that with the ingestion of carbohydrates and whey protein mixed together, there was an increase in efficiency of muscle glycogen storages when taken within 1 hour intervals. Studies showed that with supplementing CHO before exercise and during the simulated half-time period showed significantly greater than CHO oxidation at forty-five minutes and near the end of the game. However, it was verified that full body oxidation after performance and following recovery was a lot greater with the ingestion of CHO-P. One of the limitations of this study is the number of participants used. Only 6 players were used in this study when a football team consists of about 80 players. A second limitation in this study is that there is not enough metabolic data. With the addition of more metabolic data it would have allowed for more informative discussion concerning the potential ergogenic mechanisms related to the ingestion of protein.

A final limitation of this study was that it failed to assess the effects of endurance capacity and the measures of endurance performance. Therefore, the study was only constructed to determine whether the ingestion of CHO-P may bring forth an ergogenic benefit on running capacity after short-term recovery. Future studies on this experiment should focus a lot more on endurance running capacity after limited recovery with the ingestion of CHO-P before exercise and at half-time, due to the fact that endurance plays a key role in a football player’s performance which endurance allows the athlete to overcome fatigue in the latter stages of a game. This study also, would be great help to football coaches for the fact that coaches can only teach their athlete’s only so much about endurance by doing fitness in practice. With proper information on the role of ingesting CHO-P beverages before performance and at half time this gives coaches more knowledge on endurance other than fitness.

During exercise, an intake of carbohydrates adds more energy to the body which in turn allows your performance to continue at a steady incline. The best way to consume carbohydrates during competition is to drink diluted liquids (Beavers & Leutholtz, 2008). Also, it was found that ingesting low consuming glycemic index (LGI) and consuming high glycemic index(HGI) carbohydrates (CHO) had no significant effect on performance than just consuming CHO foods alone (Donaldson, Perry & Rose, 2010). In the study conducted by (Donaldson et al., 2010) 9 male endurance cyclists performed a 64km trial where they were fed 15g of either a HGI gel of dextrose or 15g of a LGI gel of honey or an artificial flavored placebo every 16km. In the results, no significant difference was found in the trial performance between LGI and HGI CHO. But when the GI trials were dropped and they formed one CHO supplementation they were drastically faster than with placebo. Overall it was found that the consumption of CHO alone can critically improve exercise performance.

A limitation of this was that with only one study done by these researches on this experiment alone was not enough and further well planned research is needed. In future studies of this experiment, researchers should look at the practical implications of drinking and eating during performance and how it effects time lost in stopping or slowing down to ingest the food. In further studies by (Wildman et al., 2010) also show that a high intake of carbohydrates during competition increases the availability to working muscle fibers, which has a great affect on the athlete’s endurance which for sports such as football, ice hockey, and soccer are critically important. In summary, the beneficial effects of consuming carbohydrates during competition allows for a boost in performance and a rise in endurance.

In conclusion, we see that carbohydrates play an essential role in the endurance and performance of athletes. The consumption of carbohydrates, the proper food choices of athletes, and what carbohydrates to consume before and during competition should the main vocal points in youth sports today. This will help the athlete’s knowledge and understanding on why carbohydrates are such a key element of what could be the determining factor on how you contribute to your team and your overall performance and endurance.


Wildman, R., Kersick, C., & Campbell, B. (2010). Carbohydrates, physical training, and sport performance. Strength and Conditioning Journal, 32(1), 21-29.

Jeukendrup, A. (2011). Nutrition for endurance sports: Marathon, triathlon, and road cycling. Journal of Sports Sciences, 29(S1), S91-99.

Donaldson, C., Perry, T., & Rose, M. (2010). Glycemic index and endurance perfomance. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 20, 154-165.

Beavers, K., & Leutholtz, B. (2008). Glycemic load food guide pyramid for
athletic performance. Strength and Conditioning Journal, 30(3), 10-14.

Long, D., Perry, C., Unruh, S., Lewis, N., & Stanek-Krogstrand, K. (2011). Personal food systems of male collegiate football players: A grounded theory investigation. Journal of Athletic Training, 2011(46(6)), 688-695.

Alghannam, A. (2011). Carbohydrate-protein ingestion improves susbsequent running capacity towards the end of a football-specific intermittent exercise. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, 36, 748-757. doi: 10.1139/H11-097

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