For years, dietitians have promoted low-carb diets: advising that we cut back on bread, pasta and potatoes. In our day-to-day meals, limiting these foods with high concentrations of starch is good because it lowers the amount of sugar we store in our bodies, thus aiding in weight loss. However, studies have shown that carbs are extremely important after a workout. When we exercise, our bodies turn to the sugar in our blood and stored throughout our cells in order to compensate for all the energy we’re using. This kind of shock to the system puts us at risk of muscle loss, as well as increases the possibility of contracting certain illnesses.
High-intensity workouts—defined as lasting an hour or more—activate stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, which reduce our white blood cell count, making our bodies susceptible to various pathogens. By consuming carbs within the first few hours after heavy exercise, we are able to replenish a lot of the essential sugars lost. Stable blood sugar levels mean fewer stress hormones are released, giving our immune system a better chance of fighting off any infectious agents that may enter our bodies.
Concerned that those carbs will negate all your hard work? Not to worry…your body is still in “recovery mode” at that point and will not store fat. However, it is still wise to choose your carbs carefully. French fries are not okay, but whole grain pasta, brown rice or sweet potatoes are solid choices. Grill up some lean chicken or salmon for a little protein and your body will be thanking you!