In Defense of Carbohydrates

Posted by Annika Landis on Jun 30th 2022

In Defense of Carbohydrates

Hi Ski Post!

The GRP just finished up our first big block of training for the summer here in Craftsbury, and we are finally starting to feel like we are back in the flow of training. We have been lucky to have cool, and sometimes downright cold weather in June, and I for one am enjoying postponing the hot and humid weather that is surely just around the corner.

(L3 skate intervals with the GRP biathletes!)

One of the biggest challenges for me as I get back into bigger hours and harder sessions after the off season is remembering how to fuel and hydrate effectively. My body suddenly needs way more energy than it did lounging on the beach in April, and it can be a bit of an adjustment to eat and drink enough. I think this is something that a lot of athletes can relate to as their training load increases throughout the summer.

(Foggy cool-down after L3 running intervals to the top of Mt. Mansfield)

I especially struggle to consume enough carbohydrates, which are an absolutely essential fuel for our bodies, as they are the primary, ‘go-to’, source of energy before, during, and after training. Unfortunately, to a lot of people, carbs are scary, thanks in part to the large amount of misinformation out there about “bad” foods. I’m not a nutritionist, and every body has different nutritional needs, but I can confidently say that no matter who you are, carbohydrates should be a big focus of your nutrition. Here are two simple reasons why:

  1. They fuel your body and brain

    Like I mentioned earlier, carbohydrates are the primary fuel for our bodies, and are the easiest source of energy for us to use during exercise. When we don’t have enough, it can be easy to feel fatigued more quickly, and recover slower after a training session. Not only do carbs fuel our muscles, they are extremely important for fueling our brains. Training requires a lot of mental energy, and there are many elements of ski training (technique, speed, etc) that require a well fed brain in order for us to absorb and adapt to new information.

  2. They help recovery + help prevent muscle breakdown

    If your body runs out of carbohydrates to use as fuel during or after a workout, it will start using protein as an energy source, which prevents protein from doing what it is meant to do, which is build muscle. I like to make sure that my post-workout snack has plenty of carbohydrates, in addition to protein, so that my body can refuel carb stores and build muscle at the same time. Below is one of my go-to post workout smoothies that has a great balance of carbs, fats, and protein.

    Skratch + Banana Smoothie

    Frozen banana
    Blueberries/other berries
    1 scoop Skratch Chocolate Recovery mix (I like this mix bc it focuses on carbs instead of protein)
    Spoon of whole greek yogurt
    Almond Milk
    Dash of cinnamon
    *optional add ins - coffee, oats, coconut

How do I boost my carb intake?

  1. Include a serving of carbs with every major meal (rice, pasta, couscous, bread, etc...)
  2. Eat a carb snack 1-2 hours before training (PB&J, oatmeal, cookie w. milk, etc...)
  3. Bring a carbohydrate drink (gatorade, skratch, etc...) and/or a training snack (granola bar, pancake w. nut butter) for workouts over 1 hr. That way you are making sure you are never running out of stored carbs.

Nutritional needs will be different for each person but the basic principles are the same. If you are interested in the nitty-gritty of sports nutrition, there are a ton of resources out there you can deep dive into. But for those who like to keep it simple, just go ahead and eat that slice of cake.

Happy Fueling! Annika