Fact Check: Do Carbs Fuel Exercise?

(Image via Unsplash/Jennifer Griffin)
(Image via Unsplash/Jennifer Griffin)

Carbohydrates, popularly called amongst fitness enthusiasts as "carbs," have gained a bad reputation among quite a few people. Some fitness enthusiasts and athletes tend to prefer low carbs and high protein in their diet. Some experts even advise people to stay away from carbs. But studies over the last several years have shown that carbs help your body during high-intensity exercises. However, your body will need more carbs as it will become more active.

So, the question remains: do carbs really fuel exercise? Should we include them in our diet for an effective workout? In this article, let's try to understand the meaning of carbohydrates and their role in the workout.

What Are Carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates or carbs are sugar molecules that form essential nutrients found in one's diet. Our body breaks down these carbs into glucose, which in turn acts as a means of energy for our organs, cells, and tissues in the body. There are different categories of carbohydrates:

  • Sugar – One of the simplest forms of carbohydrates. You can find it in food such as desserts, sodas, candies, processed foods, etc.
  • Starches – These are slightly complex carbohydrates that are made of simple sugar strung together. It includes pasta, cereal, bread, and some vegetables such as peas and potatoes.
  • Fiber – They are known as the most complex form of carbohydrates. Our body does not break down many fibers. So eating fiber helps our body feel full and avoids overeating. It includes whole grains, nuts, beans, fruits, seeds, and others.

Carbs for Exercise – Yes or No?

Carbohydrates serve an essential role in our body, including:

  • Management of the blood cholesterol levels.
  • Controlling the blood glucose and metabolism.
  • Helping in the digestive functions.
  • Acting as the energy source for our body.

Not giving enough carbohydrates to your body can have serious consequences, including constipation, weakness, vitamin deficiencies, and fatigue. Some evidence suggests that diets high in protein and low on carbohydrates hinder athletic performance rather than boost them.

Should one include carbohydrates in their workout meals? The answer to this question is yes. Eating carbohydrates before exercise tends to increase energy levels and delay the feeling of fatigue. If your exercise session is more than ninety minutes, select the easily digestible solid or liquid source of carbohydrates to be consumed during exercise. One can also consume carbohydrates after the exercise session for ideal replenishment and recovery of the body.

How Do Carbs Fuel Exercise?

Complex carbohydrates can be considered an effective energy source that increases muscle contraction. Once you eat carbohydrates, they are broken into smaller sugars to be utilized by the body to perform immediate tasks. The unused sugars are then transformed into glycogen, which is stored in the muscles and liver for later use.

Your body uses glycogen as the energy font for intense and short workouts such as weightlifting and sprinting. Since glycogen is piled into muscles, it is instantly accessible. During bouts of workouts, the glycogen stored in the muscles is converted and burned for energy. It is the usual energy source for the preliminary minutes of any sport.

During endurance exercise, glycogen sometimes also breaks down fat as a source of energy that can be used by muscles. In this scenario, protein is used as a last resort, but it stresses the kidneys.

Besides, carbohydrates provide energy to your brain and central nervous system.

Healthy Carbs for Diet

Often, people are muddled about the inclusion of carbohydrates in their diet, but it is not that difficult. Just keep in mind to consume carbohydrate from healthy foods rather than unhealthy foods. You can also keep track of your intake of carbohydrates.

  • Consume whole-grain foods such as oats or cereal at the beginning of the day. Make sure that the cereal is low on sugar and high on fiber.
  • Try and replace white bread that tends to be high in sodium with healthy alternatives such as quinoa and brown rice.
  • Instead of drinking juice that is high in sugar, eat fruits.
  • Avoid snacking on foods such as candies, desserts, and processed foods. Instead, replace the snacks with options such as seeds.
  • Lastly, replace potatoes with beans, which are also a good source of protein.


Do carbohydrates fuel exercise? The answer to this question is yes. As mentioned above, the consumption of carbohydrates pertains to many benefits. It acts as the energy source for the body, helps in the exercise session, provides proper replenishment to the body, helps in the high-intensity workouts, and so on.

So try including carbohydrates in your meal. But consume carbohydrates from a healthy source such as seeds and beans rather than desserts and bread. Also, keep track of your consumption of carbohydrates.

Poll : Do you consume carbs in your diet?



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Edited by Piyush Bisht
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