Eating Well, Fitness, Pain

For Faster Recovery, Carbs During Exercise

Exercise is stressful, physiologically speaking, and that stress causes biochemical changes, including an temporary drop in white blood cells. Why do we care?  We don’t, when we’re talking about normal daily exercise, which has been shown to boost immune systems. But prolonged intense exercise can actually weaken immune systems for short while during recovery. What to do? Researchers at the University of Queensland think we should carb up during and immediately after “high-intensity or prolonged exercise of 90 minutes or more.”  A U of Queensland news release offers this advice: “The consumption of carbohydrates before and during strenuous exercise not only improves endurance performance, but it can also minimize exercise-related immune disturbances. The researchers found that between 30 and 60 grams of carbohydrates every hour during exercise helps to support normal immune function.” OK, but what can we eat while competing in a triathlon? The scientists suggest carbohydrate-containing fluids, gels and bars consisting of different carbohydrates such as glucose and fructose. Or, a banana. “Consuming carbohydrates in the first few hours immediately after strenuous exercise also helps to restore immune function,” the researchers say. “This is especially important in situations where the recovery duration between two consecutive exercise sessions is short, which is often the case for athletes.”  Two more things: The researchers did not find sufficient evidence to recommend ‘immune-boosting’ supplements, for example antioxidants. And they remind us that “a diversified and well-balanced diet is most likely sufficient to help maintain immune function following longer-term exercise training.”

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