The Role of Carbohydrates, Fat, and Protein in Exercise
To be able to exercise your body needs carbohydrate, fat and protein!
The two main sources of exercise energy:
- Sugar stores from your liver and muscles.
- Fat stores from your muscles and fatty tissue.
- Myth: Vitamins give you energy.
- Fact: Energy comes from carbohydrates, protein and fat in the diet.
- Myth: Your muscles will become larger with lots of protein in your diet.
- Fact: If you consume excessive amounts of protein and limit carbohydrates, the body must use protein for energy; therefore, no additional muscle is built and excess protein will then be stored as fat in the muscle.
- Myth: The harder you exercise the more fat you burn.
- Fact: More fat is burned during periods greater than 20 minutes of light to moderate exercise, such as a 45 minute brisk walk.
- Myth: If you eat during exercise you will get sick.
- Fact: Carbohydrate, such as a drink of Gatorade, provides fuel to working muscles when exercising longer than 60 minutes.
What role do carbohydrate, fat and protein play in exercise?
- Is the preferred source of energy during high intensity exercise, such as a step aerobics, spin class or weight lifting.
- Provides the quickest energy for the body.
- Is required to burn fat--without it, you can't burn fat.
- Becomes the preferred source of energy in light to moderate exercise after 20 minutes of activity, such as a brisk bike ride or walk.
- The body uses protein after exercise for muscle repair and growth.
- The body will use small amounts of protein for fuel during some endurance sports such as soccer and cross-country.
Use the following basic guidelines to incorporate all three nutrients into each meal:
- Carbohydrates: ½ or more of the food on your plate should come from these foods: fruits, grains, vegetables, pastas, and milk.
- Protein: 3-4 oz from these foods: dairy products, meat, poultry, fish, nuts, seeds and eggs. 3-4 is about the size of the palm of your hand or a mayonnaise jar lid.
- Fat: about 2-3 tsp from these foods: oils, margarine, salad dressing, mayonnaise and butter.
Don't forget that some foods already contain fat naturally such as meat and diary foods or added fats such as seasoning.