The Impact Of Protein And Carbohydrates In Exercise From The YMCA


UPDATED: Wednesday January 2, 2013 4:26 PM

To be at your best during exercise it is crucial that you eat appropriately. Protein and carbohydrates are two of the main types of nutrients found in foods. Eating foods that contain these two substances may have a more beneficial effect on your performance during exercise than consuming only one or the other.

Benefits: Carbs provide your body with energy that you need to get through workouts. Foods that are rich sources of carbs include breads, pasta and cereals. Your body utilizes protein to build and maintain muscle. Meats, dairy, soy, nuts and beans are high in protein. The combination of the protein and carbs before, during and after working out provides you with several benefits. According to the National Strength and Conditioning Association, carbs and protein speed recovery, promote muscle growth and improve sports performance.

Studies: Research supports the idea that carbs and protein improve sports performance. A study published in the "International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism" in September 2003 found that eating carbs and proteins gave participants more performance gains than carbs alone. The researchers stated that the reason for the enhanced performance was not evident. A meta-analysis published in August 2010 in the "Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research" also showed that protein and carbs improved performance during high-intensity exercise, but speculated that the increased caloric intake was most likely the cause.

Considerations: The importance of protein could be overstated. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, carbs have the most significant impact on sports performance; however, protein is not the next more important, fluids are. An adequate fluid intake to prevent dehydration is the second most important factor for success in sports. When you exercise, your body loses fluid; eventually you may lose more water than you can absorb and become dehydrated. The Mayo Clinic recommends drinking one to three cups of water before exercise and to keep drinking water during and after exercise.

Intakes: The general recommendation for diet is to eat a minimum of 50 percent of daily calories in the form of carbs, 35 percent or less from fat and the rest from protein, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. However, athletes and people who exercise frequently may need a higher amount of carbs in their diet. Consume 60 percent of your daily calories from carbs, 30 percent of fewer calories from fat and between 10 percent and 15 percent from proteins if you are active, states the FAO.