Ford Vs Chevy. Coke Vs. Pepsi. Some debates have been going for centuries and don't appear to be stopping anytime soon. People like to debate, whether to boost their morale, stay sharp mentally, or just to stay on their toes, they love to debate. Choose any topic, brand, or idea, and you can probably find people wiling to argue the two main points of it.
This rings true when it comes to nutrition as well. Long debated on message boards and in gyms everywhere is a simple five worded phrase: "A calorie is a calorie!" Calories are, simply put, units of energy that our bodies burn in order to move and function. We get calories from the foods we eat, and we burn them when we sleep, walk, work, and yes, train hard in the gym. But are all calories created equally?
We have all seen extreme examples of athletes who eat insane amount of junk and manage to break world records. Usain Bolt can run 27.7 miles per hour, and he brags about how many Chicken McNuggets he eats in a single sitting. Michael Phelps devours 12,000 calories per day while training… and collects gold medals by the dozen while eating some foods most people would consider to be anything but wholesome or healthy.
Unfortunately, genetic freaks like those do exist and often skew the vision for the rest of us working to develop a smart, well-rounded nutritional plans. The sources of calories - particularly when it comes to carbohydrates - matter greatly. Let's see if you've been getting your carbs from the right places!
Carbs matter - in a big way. As the primary source of energy for your muscles, brain, and nervous sytem, you need them to function. Choosing the best ones will leave you energetic and capable. Choosing the wrong ones can leave you with energy spikes - and then subsequent collapses and of course, more hunger.
Complex carbs are the "good ones." Their energy is utilized by the body in a gradual manner, keeping blood glucose levels stable and steady. Simple carbs - sugars - do the opposite. Simple carbs lead to an instant spike in blood glucose (and energy!) levels, followed with a sudden collapse. We all remember eating piles of candy, feeling a ton of energy… and then collapsing afterwards. Simple sugar carbs do this, and complex carbohydrates do not.
You can think of complex carbohydrates as the healthy ones. Anything minimally manmade that isn't a protein or fat is likely a complex carb. Foods such as green vegetables, oatmeal, pasta, whole grain breads, potatoes, corn, sweet potatoes, beans, lentils, peas and pumpkin are all considered to be complex carbs. These are the slow-burning carbs which your body uses very practically. You calmly approach workouts, and you ramp up for them. You don't have crashes. On the other hand, you don't have the spike in energy that many people truly enjoy in the gym. Simple carbs are great for that. Ready to lean about them?
Simple carbs are, well, everything else. They are the carbs which you may consider to be better tasting. Milk, yogurt, table sugar, syrup, candy, and of course, energy drinks! And don't forget about the wide range of super sweet coffee concoctions that many people consume on a daily basis. Yes, they're loaded with as much sugar as soda, yet people drink them every day. Simple carbs create instant energy in the body - but it doesn't last long.
Are simple carbs completely useless? Absolutely not! Should you drink a Red Bull to start your day? Doing so means you'll have a ton of energy at 8am and be a pile of sleepy on your desk at 9am. However, if you're heading into a big workout, the sugars from a piece of fruit and a small energy drink can certainly fuel an insanely intense workout. As long as you immediately follow your workout with protein, as well as a combination of slow and fast burning carbs - to ensure recovery as well as steady energy levels - you'll have no problem enjoying steady energy levels along with an awesome boost to your training.
As with all items nutritional… your methods may vary! You read recommended training protocols, and you make decisions based upon what you read. Sometimes you tweak workouts, sometimes you reject certain exercises. You record your results and you make decisions about future training based upon what you see. The same tenets apply here! Start with steady complex carbs for most of your meals, with some simple carbs before training. Write down how you feel and what training results you are seeing. Then mix things up - and write down the results that you experience. You may discover simple carbs work great before workouts, and again at other parts of the day. As long as you're recording results, you'll never make the same mistake twice. Good luck!