Adequate carbohydrate and protein intake are both essential to a healthy diet. Carbs are more than a calorie-laden sugar rush, and protein is more than just a heavy stomach-filler. These are the two nutritional building blocks of your metabolism, and they must be consumed in a healthy balance to keep your energy levels high.
The Role of Protein
Though you will get the bulk of your actual daily energy from fast-burning carbohydrates, you cannot utilize that energy unless you body has plenty of protein. Protein’s job is to make possible the synthesis and maintenance of muscle and the creation of hormones and enzymes. In other words, it holds everything in your metabolism steady so that carbohydrates can do their job. It is better not to allow your body to get it’s main fuel from protein. If you force your body to burn protein for energy (by not eating enough carbohydrates), you will not perform at peak. You will also face the threat of increased dehydration, which is a common cause of poor performance in athletes.
How Much Protein Should You Eat?
The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) says: .8 grams of protein for every 1 kilogram body weight. However, if you are involved in strenuous weight training or other heavy physical activities, you can raise that amount as far as 1.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. Excess protein will become fat, so be sure not to overdo your consumption. The best way to get protein is from foods that have what is called “complete protein.” This means they have all the essential amino acids. Most complete protein foods come from animals, such as beef, fish, chicken and eggs. Vegetarians can meet their protein needs either through supplements, or combining “incomplete proteins,” such as legumes and nuts.
The Role of Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates provide the energy that protein supports. Carbohydrates, no matter what form they come in, honey, bread or potatoes or fruit, are sugar. Carbohydrate-based sugar is the gas in your tank. Your body releases insulin that moves the sugar into your cells, where it can used as energy. It is absolutely necessary to high performance. Complex carbohydrates, such as whole grain cereal and whole wheat pasta, are a better choice for creating energy than simple carbohydrates, like refined sugar and fruit. Complex carbohydrates burn strong but slow, allowing you to maintain energy for a longer period of time.
How Much Carbohydrates Should You Eat?
For maximum energy, more than half your daily calorie intake should come from carbs, preferably complex ones. You daily calorie intake will depend on how strenuous your exercise regime is. For maximum energy, focus on complex carbs before exercise. They will convert quickly to energy, and give you the vigor you need to get through your work out. Eat simple carbs, preferably fruit, after exercising, to raise your glycogen back to a productive level.
To achieve and maintain high energy in your fitness regime, it is important to know the parts protein and carbohydrates play in your metabolism. Both components are necessary if you want to utilize your maximum energy.