Whether you’re new to the running community or you’ve been around for a while, you’ve heard terms relating to intaking carbs and proteins. They’re often used interchangeably but there is a pretty substantial difference. Stick around and I’ll break down the differences.
In simplest terms, carbohydrates (carbs) are food used to fuel the body. A quick and easy anatomy lesson, the body breaks down food into energy for the body to use. That usable energy is from carbohydrates. There are foods that are more efficient for the body to break down than others. Simple carbs vs complex carbs. Many of these foods would be relatively high in sugar already which makes it easier and quicker to break down into that usable energy. Carbohydrates are used to fuel the body in an efficient manner to give the body energy to complete workouts like weight lifting, running hard, races, etc. The body can store up to about 90 minutes worth of energy at a time, but at that point you would be completely depleted so remember you need to be refueling during exercise that takes longer than that 90 min more frequently and far sooner than that 90 min mark. The exact frequency of refueling as well as specific products to us are different for every person so you will have to do a lot of trial and error to find out what works for you. As much as companies like to push certain products for refueling like gels, hydration packets with fuel, gummies and so on, there are many options beyond those that will do the job just fine. Feel free to ask your friends for fueling suggestions but what may work for them, may not work for you so keep that in mind when experimenting. And don’t forget NOTHING NEW ON RACE DAY, this includes fuel.
Protein is used to heal the body. During strenuous exercise, very small tears are created in muscles, not enough to do any real damage, and during reparations, more muscle tissue is added to those spots where the tears are to make the body stronger thus building the muscle. Those small tears are often the cause of muscle soreness. Taking in proteins helps the body to expedite those reparations so the body heals a bit quicker than it would otherwise. Protein can often come from different cuts and choices of meats, as well as beans and many others. It’s important to note that while protein is a form of fueling, it is not efficient, foods high in protein are not broken down fast enough to be used by the body during exercise. It is going to sit in the stomach and feel heavy for a while before there is any usable energy.
Once you break it down, it’s not so hard to understand the difference and their usage.