​​​​The Science

​​A carbohydrate is a biological molecule consisting of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms, usually with a hydrogen–oxygen atom ratio of 2:1; in other words, with the empirical formula Cm(H2O)n. Some exceptions exist; for example, deoxyribose, a sugar component of DNA, has the empirical formula C5H10O4. Carbohydrates are technically hydrates of carbon; structurally it is more accurate to view them as polyhydroxy aldehydes and ketones.

Carbohydrates are one of the main nutrients your body needs, sometimes called macronutrients (There are three macros: carbs, protein, and fat). Carbs are the most important source of energy for your body. Your body will break down carbs into glucose (the sugar found in your blood), and your blood helps transport this fuel all over your body to provide the energy you need to do everything from run and jump to sit and sleep. Our brain is requires carbohydrates.In fact, it consumes one-third of all carbohydrates we consume. It is vital that very active people, both youth and adults consume the correct percentage of carbohydrates each day.

​Carbohydrates come from food sources just like protein does. After consuming carbohydrates our body turns them into a substance called glucose and stored in our liver and muscles as glycogen. The complete process will eventually find it's way to the millions and millions of cells that we have in our body and produce the final substance called Adenosine triphosphate, or ATP. ATP is produced by the mitochondria in each of our cells and delivered throughout the body as ENERGY.

Some excellent sources of carbohydrates, also known as complex sugars, are fruits, vegetables, whole wheat bread, potatoes, brown rice, beans and whole wheat pasta. Some poor choices of carbohydrates, also known as simple sugars, would be candy, syrups, cakes etc.

Unless your doctor has told you otherwise, carbs are part of an overall healthy diet. But not all carbs are created equal, so it's important to learn which (and how much) you should be eating. Here are some of the most common carb misconceptions—and the science-backed truth.

The Myth

Carbs will make you fat.

Low-carb diets are the only way to lose weight.

​All pasta and bread are bad.

Less than half of your diet should be carbs.

​We don't burn calories while sleeping.

The Truth

It can be tempting to blame any undesirable health issue on a single item—be it sugar, red meat, or gluten. More recently, carbs have been the culprit du jour.​ People like [carbohydrates] so much, they tend to overeat them. So people gain weight—not because the carbs are bad—but because they’re having too much. If you consume more calories than your body needs—whether or not it contains carbohydrate—you can gain an unhealthy amount of weight.

Instead of making spaghetti your enemy, think about pairing the complex carb with healthy foods, like lean proteins, legumes, and veggies, pasta is a perfect vehicle for cooking with many foods, it's quick and easy to prepare. Hearty grains like quinoa, wild rice, brown rice, and farro are also all great bases for a healthy, satisfying meal. Just be sure to keep your portions in check; a single serving of cooked pasta equals about one cup or the size of your fist.
The same rules apply to bread. If you just can't go without a lunchtime sandwich, make sure you're putting something like grilled chicken, avocado, tomato, and lettuce between two whole grain slices.

While everyone's nutritional needs are different, the acceptable distribution range for carbohydratesis 45 to 65 percent of your total daily caloric intake. Since daily caloric needs can vary, thinking about carbs as a percentage of your daily total is a good strategy. For example, a 20-something woman eating 1,800 calories per day, should aim for 810 to 1,170 of those calories (or 202 to 292 grams) to come from carbohydrates. An active youth athletes diet will be about the same as an adults.

My recommendation for youth engaging in the sport of cross country or track and field is from 1200 to 2000 calories. I like to see about 6o% (720 to 1200) of calories consumed come from quality carbohydrates. In grams that would be from 300 to about 500 for the 2000 calorie diet. If your workouts become longer and more strenuous, you will need to increase overall caloric needs, but the percentage of carbohydrates consumed stay the same.

One last myth to clear up is the amount of calorie burn while sleeping. An active youth or adult athlete engaged in a high volume sport such as running will burn about 40% to 50% of their daily caloric intake while sleeping.  An athletes immune system does not take off for the day while we sleep, and high quality nutrients are needed to repair and help our muscles recover from a hard day of training while we sleep. So while we sleep the miracle of regeneration takes place, so long as we are taking care of our body properly.

Coach Richard Burke              

Understanding Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates = Energy


​Junior Olympic, Regional and National Championship Team

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