Chris Cairns and Carbohydrates
Tom, tell me about carbohydrates. I’m getting mixed messages.
Carbohydrates; the Chris Cairns of nutrients. Despite a history of match turning performances bursting with swagger and muscle, the foul stench of controversy has soured the sweet taste of carbohydrates and all food that come under its umbrella.
However, just like Chris Cairns was put forth to trial (and found innocent!), scientists have been closely studying the true effects of carbohydrates.
What have they found?
I will get straight to the point. Carbohydrates are a very useful nutrient if you want to go further and faster, which I imagine you do if you are cycling around Taupo, or on a training ride.
They are more efficient at producing energy than fat and protein, and your intake of carbohydrates during exercise is positively correlated with performance. i.e. the more carbohydrates you have, the better you will perform (in the context of endurance exercise).
So how do we take advantage of these carbohydrates? How do we get Chris Cairns on the team?
Carbohydrates come in the form of gels, drinks, and whole foods e.g. rice, potato, and bananas. You have to figure out what will work best for you, so practising during training is essential.
I prefer a mixture. I always ensure my drink has carbs in it because then whenever I drink, I am getting carbs as well - it’s like killing two birds with one stone.
Gels are great because they contain everything you need, and nothing you don’t. They are convenient, and contain a consistent portion of carbohydrates, but real food has its advantages as well. I love having some date loaf with honey to look forward to, especially during longer sessions.
Cairnsey wasn’t the most consistent performer. How do I ensure carbohydrates come through for me?
Good question, and one that Stephen Flemming was constantly grappling with. Here are some quick pointers:
· Practise during training. Flemming didn’t rest Cairnsey during big tournaments and then bring him out just for important matches.
· The more Cairns the better – with practise you can tolerate up to 90g of carbohydrates per hour! Aim for at least 60g an hour (2 gels plus sports drink) and you will really reap the rewards.
· Don’t rely on Cairnsey to get you out of a hole. Start taking carbohydrates early (after about 30 minutes) and then take regularly throughout your session.
You seem enamoured with carbohydrates. Why have they gotten such a bad rap then?
Probably due to an ever-growing list of overly processed carbohydrate-based products (I’d hardly call them food) that are slowly poisoning our society. But don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Carbohydrates, when taken in conjunction with an active life, are an excellent fuel. Use them to your advantage.
Three ways carbs can improve your life:
1. Fuel your exercise. Consuming more carbs will improve endurance performance.
2. Keep you healthy. Whole-grain carbs are a nutritious, convenient, and affordable source of energy that you need in order to stay healthy and avoid illness during periods of heavy training.
3. Crumpets, toasted till crunchy. Lathered in marge, and quickly coated in a thick layer of honey. Enjoy this gift in moderation.