This Article is From Mar 04, 2019

Proteins Or Carbs: Which Is The Best Fuel For Exercise?

It is true that proteins are important for building and repair of muscles. But do they help in providing the body with energy to exercise efficiently? Read here to know the answer.

Proteins Or Carbs: Which Is The Best Fuel For Exercise?

Carbs fuel the body during long-duration workouts


  • Proteins are important for building muscle mass and weight loss
  • Carbs are important for exercising efficiently
  • They convert glycogen into glucose- which is used as fuel for exercising

Proteins are often considered as the go-to option for revving up yourself for exercising. But is that true? Fitness expert Simran Khosla feels that it is carbohydrates (carbs), and not proteins, that help you feel energised during long-duration workouts. Nutrition and exercise are like two sides of the same coin for achieving fitness and weight loss. No matter the intensity and duration of your daily workout regimen, if your nutrition is not on point, you are going to face difficulties in achieving your desired goals on time.

In her post on Instagram, Simran talks about how the best fuel for exercise, especially strength training, is considered to be protein-rich foods. It is true that proteins are important for building and repair of muscles. Proteins also play an important role in weight loss and they promote feeling of fullness and may facilitate reduction of appetite. But, proteins will not provide you with energy for exercising efficiently.

Also read: Revealed! The Right Way To Consume Nuts And Seeds For Weight Loss

The very common practice of curbing carbs - for quick weight loss - does more harm than good. Firstly, it may help you lose weight quickly, but the weight is quickly gained back once you get back to normal eating routine. Secondly, lack of carbs may deprive your body of the energy (or fuel) it needs to exercise efficiently.

"Carbohydrates are one of your body's best fuel sources due to the efficient way they use oxygen. In fact, they use less oxygen for every kilocalorie of energy produced than either fats or proteins, which makes them an important part of your diet if you are physically active, especially if you are an endurance athlete," explains Simran in her post.

Also read: Are You Eating Enough Carbs? Watch Out For These Signs Of Carbohydrate Deficiency

How does the body use carbs as fuel for exercise?

There are glycogen stores in your liver and muscles that depend heavily on your carb intake. Body converts glycogen to glucose, which is a type of sugar. This glucose is used by muscles as the primary source of fuel during exercise.


Carbs are an important part of your diet, especially if you are physically active
Photo Credit: iStock

Thus, your ability to exercise depends on the amount of glucose in your body, which is produced by intake of healthy carbs. " After about 90 minutes of exercise, your body's supply of glycogen is completely depleted, which puts you at a risk for "hitting the wall", or feeling lethargic during your endurance event. If your body doesn't have enough glycogen to sustain you, it will start to burn fat for energy. Fat burns at a much slower rate than carbohydrates, which will slow you down," writes Simran.

So, before you opt for low-carb diet, remember that your are compromising on your glycogen stores and the energy to exercise.

Also read: The Truth About Carbs: What Happens If You Eat Too Many?

Here are some healthy sources of carbs that must be a part of your diet:

1. All kinds of vegetables

2. Sweet potatoes

3. Potatoes

4. Nuts

5. Seeds

6. Whole grains

7. Whole fruits

8. Legumes

9. Quinoa

The carbs you should avoid

1. Pasta

2. Fruit juices

3. Sugary drinks

4. Aerated drinks

5. White breads

6. Sugary foods like biscuits, cakes, pastries

7. Fried foods

8. Processed and packaged foods

(Simran Khosla is a fitness expert at Butt Like An Apricot)

Disclaimer: This content including advice provides generic information only. It is in no way a substitute for qualified medical opinion. Always consult a specialist or your own doctor for more information. NDTV does not claim responsibility for this information.