Various form of carbohydrates such as fruits, bread, pasta, and vegetables all around a sign that reads "Carbohydrates"

The Power of Carbohydrates

The Power of Carbohydrates

While protein often takes center stage in discussions about performance and recovery, it's important not to overlook the role that carbohydrates play in the pursuit of all types of goals – from strength training progress to endurance performance, and even reducing body fat. In this article we’ll explore the numerous benefits of getting the right types of carbohydrates into your daily diet in order to optimize training, body composition, and overall health. 

Carbohydrates and performance

Carbohydrates are the body’s preferred and dominant fuel source during exercise at moderate to high intensities. They provide the working muscles – as well as the brain and central nervous system – with the substrate it needs to produce energy quickly enough to maintain a high level of power output (1). 

When athletes get their carbohydrate-fueling strategies right, they often describe feeling like machines: they can keep going with full focus and intensity right through to the end of a hard training session. But with insufficient carbohydrate intake, fatigue often kicks in, which significantly hampers performance – and the resulting progress that can be made. This has been shown to be true for endurance, team sport, and strength training endeavors (2-4). 

Based on the vast amount of research consistently linking carbohydrate intake with improved performance, leading sports nutrition authorities such as the American College of Sports Medicine and the International Olympic Committee highlight carbohydrates as a key component of a well-rounded sports nutrition strategy (5,6). 

Can carbohydrates help with building muscle and strength?

As well as short-term performance, maintaining sufficient carbohydrate availability has also been linked to exercise-induced adaptations to resistance training – meaning more successful gains over time. This effect was highlighted in a review by US Military nutrition researchers that showed how restricting carbohydrate intake increases protein oxidation, which can impair both  anaerobic performance and muscle growth (7). 

These findings align with previous research, which consistently shows that, compared with low-carbohydrate ketogenic diets, carbohydrate-rich diets result in significantly improved outcomes not only in time trials and one-rep max lifts, but also in long-term muscle gains (8). 

Do carbohydrates lead to increased body fat?

Carbohydrates are feared by many for leading to unwanted weight gain. This can certainly be true for added sugars, refined foods and ultra-processed sources of carbohydrates – primarily because they’re calorie-dense and hyper-palatable, making them very easy to over-consume (9,10). 

But the opposite is true when carbohydrates come from whole plant foods like whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables: the evidence consistently shows they can in fact help reduce body fat, even when diets are not intended to be calorically restricted (11-14). That’s because these kinds of whole-food carbohydrate sources are typically less calorie dense and are great sources of fiber and antioxidants, which can alter the digestion and absorption of nutrients, the stimulation of gut hormones, and the sense of fullness – all factors that can help prevent the accumulation of excess body fat (15,16). 

Are carbohydrates healthy? 

Once again, the source of carbohydrates significantly affects various health outcomes. For instance, higher consumption of added sugars and ultra-processed foods like candy, soda, cookies, cakes and ice cream are linked with obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and mortality (17). 

On the other hand, whole food sources of carbohydrates like whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables come packaged with highly beneficial fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. That’s why their consumption – on top of the performance and body composition benefits highlighted above – is linked with potent health benefits, significantly reducing risk of numerous chronic diseases and even increasing lifespan (18,19). 

The Takeaway Message

Given their powerful effects on performance, body composition and overall health, carbohydrates – especially when sourced from whole plant foods like whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables – should be considered an important element of your daily nutrition. 

To help you incorporate healthy, whole food sources of carbohydrates with your FȲTA Elite Plant Protein, why not try adding whole grains with these baked protein oats or a warming bowl of protein oatmeal. You could also harness the power of carbohydrates in fruit by making this banana-based mouth-watering café latte nice cream, or simply by adding FȲTA protein to your favorite smoothie recipe. 



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  2. Naderi, A., Gobbi, N., Ali, A., Berjisian, E., Hamidvand, A., Forbes, S. C., Koozehchian, M. S., Karayigit, R., & Saunders, B. (2023). Carbohydrates and Endurance Exercise: A Narrative Review of a Food First Approach. Nutrients, 15(6), 1367.
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