9 Reasons Carbohydrates Are Important For Recovery

Which food do you typically have to help you recover from a workout? 9 Reasons Carbohydrates Are Important For Recovery. Endurance athletes are very quick to select a protein shake as their first choice because of the strong benefits it holds.

A considerable body of research (along with some proficient advertising) advocates for the inclusion of protein in a successful recuperation program.

Is protein really the key element to recovery for endurance athletes, or is there something else that is even more important?

It is certain that a vigorous exercise session can lead to some muscle damage.

Training and racing entail much more than just an expense because they will also drain your energy reserves, specifically in the form of glycogen (the body’s carbohydrate saving molecule). This is why it is crucial to replenish carbohydrates during recovery.

Reasons Why Carbs are Important for Recovery

Despite stories which suggest that endurance athletes usually do much of their preparation while not having a high intake of carbohydrates, this is not supported when asking athletes, coaches, and people with experience in the sport.

Athletes who take their sport seriously work to get the most out of their carbohydrate consumption to excel during their training, on the race track and during their recovery periods.

Consuming inadequate amounts of carbohydrates can cause both mental and physical exhaustion.

When performing rigorous physical activity, your body’s glycogen supply can be depleted in as little as one to one and a half hours. This can be accomplished quickly if you are taking part in a competition or a tough exercise session.

This restoration of glycogen is important to your recovery for several reasons:

1. Firstly, carbs help support tough sessions

If you’re not replenishing your nutrients and energy, you could be stopping yourself from improving with your workouts. To get the most out of working out, your body needs to be given the tools it needs during the time in-between workouts.

2. Carbs support subsequent training

It is essential to replenish your body with fuel when you plan on competing or practising soon after your first workout session. Not eating enough carbohydrates will prevent you from replenishing your body’s glycogen stores, which will subsequently lead to decreased performance during your next workout.

Going back to the fuel tank analogy: if you run out of gas, then you must replenish the tank before attempting to accelerate again. If you fail to refuel your body with enough food and drink, you risk becoming suddenly and completely exhausted and stuck without any means of transportation.

3. Carbs reduce the risk of illness and injury

Your immune system can be vulnerable during times of strenuous exercise and even more so if you do not properly reload and drink enough water.

Your body is more likely to become overstressed if you don’t take in enough carbohydrates or calories in general. Additionally, not eating enough of them over a long time can raise your risk of stress fractures and other injuries.

4. Carbs help sleep quality

The benefits of consuming carbohydrates or for a restful night’s sleep are that glucose is the main and most desirable energy source for the brain.

As we slumber, the brain entrusts the liver to keep up blood sugar levels and provide it with essential carbs. By the start of the day, our reserves of liver glycogen may be significantly lowered.

You may impair the quality of your sleep by going to bed with little fuel in your body, which can lead to the development of hypoglycemia while you’re asleep.

This concept is especially meaningful if you do your hardest workouts at night and can’t manage to eat a lot or don’t want to before you go to bed.

5. Improves energy levels

Glycogen is produced from glucose, which comes from carbohydrates. Glycogen is held in reserve in the cells of the muscle, brain, heart, and liver. Glycogen gives the brain what it needs to operate normally and produces ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate) to offer energy to the body.

If you don’t consume enough carbohydrates, you can experience fatigue, a lack of energy, difficulty concentrating and a decrease in cognitive speed. In addition, if you don’t consume enough carbohydrates, your ability to engage in physical activity will suffer, as you’ll be lacking the necessary energy.

Carbs can lengthen your exercise routine and stimulate stamina, as well as help revive your body after exercise.

6. Improves athletic performance

Your body primarily relies on glycogen as its main energy source when exercising.

Glycogen in your body is consumed while exercising, which is why you become tired more quickly. Many medical trials have demonstrated that extended physical activity is associated with diminished amounts of glycogen in muscle tissue.

When vigorously engaging in short, recurring physical exertion, as well as throughout continued physical effort, glucose is broken down via aerobic and anaerobic workouts to form ATP, which is required for muscle movement.

Glycogen is depleted at the rate of physical activity. The outcome of vigorous exercise will use up glycogen stores faster than lighter physical exertion.

It has been noted by the Journal of Sports Medicine that for physical activity that is more than 60% of VO2max, blood glucose and muscle glycogen are mainly the energy sources used, since when the intensity increases the need for carbohydrates increases and more fast-twitch motor units are brought into play.

Consequently, if you anticipate completing the physical activity for an extended period or have multiple workouts of the day, you must take a natural and healthy source of complex carbohydrates to restore glycogen levels, resulting in higher energy and better muscle endurance.

7. Helps build more muscle

When discussing the construction of muscle, protein tends to receive most of the attention. If you’re aiming to become part of the “strong not skinny” crowd and build up a bigger backside, then you should include more carbohydrates in your diet.

Countless numbers of social media specialists and physical conditioning devotees tell you that you ought to restrict carbohydrates or reduce your carb intake to build muscle and obtain the body you have always wanted, however, it is actually the complete opposite.

Your body prefers carbohydrates as fuel for high-level and resistance activities. The consequences of following a low-carb diet, such as having depleted glycogen stores, would hinder your athletic performance and prevent you from getting the desired outcomes.

It is very important to get the right amount of necessary amino acids from proteins and glycogen from carbohydrates to feed and trigger the recuperation process after exercise, to ensure the best results from your workout.

Studies conducted in a clinical setting have revealed that if you combine carbohydrates and protein in your nutrition regime following exercise, the results will show the most effective improvements to your performance and muscle development.

It is essential to keep in mind that if you wish to achieve a build which is muscular yet has a slender waist, you will require the inclusion of bound carbohydrates in your diet.

8. Maintains healthy weight

Incorporating complex carbohydrates into your diet provides a great advantage in terms of feeling satisfied. Consuming foods high in fibre and complex carbohydrates causes you to feel fuller for longer and assists in controlling your portions, instead of consuming simple carbohydrates.

This will facilitate keeping a good body weight and shrinking fat stores. Carbohydrates that are more difficult to break down take a longer period to be digested, avoiding a sudden surge in blood sugar and consequently providing sustained energy. This energy lasts for a longer amount of time and can prevent rapid weight gain.

Eating processed and pre-prepared foods in lieu instead of processed foods that contain quality carbohydrates can cause you to gain an excessive amount of body fat and become obese.

Processed snacks such as pastries, cereals, Pop-Tarts, doughnuts and so on are basically sugar and can trigger insulin imbalances in the blood, setting off a cycle of bad eating.

In the end, the energy provided by the energy supplement is fleeting, leading to an eventual decrease in energy levels and an increase in fat storage in the body. The problem is food additives.

My proposal is to become educated in how to read nutrition labels, so you can be conscious of the refined sugar additives that often masquerade as obscure names in the “other ingredients” found in many packaged foods.

9. Supports bowel health

Fibre is categorized as a type of carbohydrate, which can either be soluble or insoluble.

  • Soluble fibre dissolves in water and forms a gel-like material when it goes through your GI tract. It can help lower blood cholesterol and glucose levels. Soluble fibre is found in oats, peas, beans, apples, citrus fruits, carrots, barley, and other whole grains.
  • Insoluble fibre promotes the movement of material through your digestive system and increases bowel movement. If you don’t get enough insoluble fibre in your diet, you can have symptoms such as irregular bowel movement and constipation. Whole-wheat flour, wheat bran, nuts, beans and vegetables, such as cauliflower, green beans and potatoes, are all good sources of insoluble fibre.

Consuming more dietary fibre in your meals can improve the regularity of your bowel movements and reduce the risk of constipation. Research has demonstrated that consuming dietary fibre helps to look after the well-being of the digestive system, reducing the likelihood of haemorrhoids and colon cancer.

Consider adding some of the dietary fibre foods listed below to your diet to increase your fibre intake and keep your digestive system healthy.

  • Whole-grain products
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Beans, peas and other legumes
  • Nuts and seeds

Using Carbs to Optimize Recovery

Having enough fuel for your body necessitates consuming meals at the appropriate periods and consuming enough food. Let’s investigate the most effective timing, amount, and form of carbohydrates to aid in recovery.


It can take from 18-24 hours for all muscle glycogen stores to fully replenish if they become significantly depleted. It takes an especially long period of rest for athletes who do intense workouts to restore their energy before their next session.

Thus, when it will benefit you to rebound quickly ( 8 hours since your last workout) and get your glycogen back to peak levels, you should be extremely determined in your recovery with carbohydrates.

Studies illustrate that consuming carbs quickly is linked to faster glycogen recovery in the initial hours following physical activity. At this time, the muscle is ready to quickly absorb glucose because of the exercise you did beforehand.

If you need to get back to intensive training or competing soon after an energy-draining bout, you should consume a snack or meal that is high in carbohydrates as soon as possible. This will help the muscles quickly refill their glycogen stores.

In these situations, look at your recovery following exercise as a type of preparation for your next workout!

Evidence indicates that drinking caffeine in combination with carbohydrates can help the return of muscle glycogen to the body. That’s good news for caffeine lovers!

You can use caffeine to improve the restoration of muscle glycogen when you work out in the morning and in the afternoon or when competing for mu multiple times a day.

Be aware that caffeine can be harmful to your sleep, so it is important to determine when to consume it. You could use caffeine to bounce back, but you may opt to not drink it late in the afternoon or evening so you can sleep well at night.

When the gap between sessions is greater, up to 12-24 hours, you don’t need to be as quick when replenishing your fuel. You have more freedom to eat when it works best for you.

Be sure that, in the interval between coming to the end of your exercise routine and having a snack, the body keeps reconstructing glycogen in the muscle; it’s simply happening more slowly.

After approximately 24 hours of recovering, the amount of muscle glycogen should be the same regardless of how soon after the exercise the post-workout meal or snack was eaten (whether it was immediately or if it was delayed by 2 to 3 hours), provided that the person’s cumulative energy needs have been fulfilled.


The importance of timing your intake of glycogen for quick recovery before another performance is just as significant as the number of carbohydrates consumed.

When attempting to store the most glycogen possible in a short period, strive to consume between 1-1.2 g of carbs for every kilogram of your body weight in the first three to six hours. That would be 0.45-0.55 g for each pound.

As per the most recent American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) Position Stand, the recommendations provided here reflect the new knowledge of the top sports science scientists and practitioners globally.

These rules should be taken as the initial reference point, but it is recommended that your initial food intake be adjusted to the intensity and length of your first exercise session.

If you didn’t do a long workout or an extremely intense one, you can reduce the intensity/length.

In other words, if you don’t need to replenish glycogen rapidly, then you can be a bit thriftier with your initial carbs consumption.


The kind of carbohydrate consumed during recovery doesn’t seem to have a huge impact on the speed of glycogen reconstruction. There appears to be no distinction between using pure glucose or a glucose-fructose mix as to how quickly or to what amount glycogen is replenished.

It doesn’t matter what types of food or drinks you choose to consume, as long as the total amount of carbohydrates is sufficient and your diet is providing the right balance of nutrients. You can customize your choices to whatever you like.

There are multiple scenarios where some food and drink choices may be more convenient than others.

For example, when training at the edge of the pool for a swim competition, it is more feasible to consume carbohydrates from recovery bars or liquid sources, such as a milkshake, sports drink, or a carbohydrate-filled recovery mixture, instead of a baked potato or portion of rice.


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