Carbohydrates are Fuel

Carbohydrates are Fuel 

By Daniel Rocha LMT CPT

Most of my current clients are athletes or do a great deal of exercise and weight training. So explaining the reasoning why their bodies are hurting and just how we fix things at home is always part of the conversation. How you eat is a huge factor in how your body reacts to your training and recovery. Energy metabolism is how the body generates energy obtained from food. The chemical energy generated is used to maintain health and life which includes growth, repair, and physical activity. The nutrients in food provide the body with energy by breaking down food into its macronutrients.  (Culvert 2017) 


Our bodies will use glucose, fatty acids, and at times amino acids for energy by degrading these macronutrients into an Acetyl group of Acetyl-CoA. The oxidative decarboxylation of pyruvate to form Acetyl-CoA is the link between glycolysis and the Krebs cycle. What? Your body is designed to survive and will utilize what is readily available to make sugar so your body can use that to produce the energy it needs for all its requirements, not just to train. (Cann 2020) 


Carbohydrates are the only macronutrient that can be broken down into energy without the presence of oxygen. Therefore, glycolysis is an anaerobic metabolic pathway that breaks down carbohydrates. The energy for glycolysis comes from glucose or glycogen. Glycogen is stored carbohydrate within muscle and the liver. 


Current peri-nutrition for bodybuilders provides carbohydrates during training to fuel glycolysis. This practice ensures that there are enough carbohydrates to keep glycogen stores full because any reduction in muscle glycogen will lead to fatigue. An example is during the last few weeks of contest prep, and carbohydrate intake is minimal. 


It's during this phase of a contest prep that storing glycogen in the liver and muscles is important in human metabolism. The liver will then controlling blood sugar between meals. Trust me it is not the best feeling but you do what must be done to get rid of every ounce of bodyfat. 


So during a contest prep, calories and carbohydrate are severely restricted. This will keep insulin levels low, causing glucagon to be released. Glucagon stimulates the liver to release glycogen to maintain blood sugar levels. Let me promise you that you feel terrible. You are functioning but are extremely fatigued. 


But training can trigger the two types of glycolysis, which are fast glycolysis and slow glycolysis. Within fast glycolysis, the pyruvate is converted into lactate, where the body can produce more ATP.  Lactate is not lactic acid and will act to buffer the metabolic acidosis. Easy example is doing a set of squats, the first few reps are easy. But as the burn begins to set in, most bodybuilders will hold their breath due to the intense lactic acid burn. A trainer or training partner will scream out, BREATH! That quick deep breath allows the bodybuilder to perform an extra 2-5 reps. The rest in-between sets where stretching and deep breaths occurs is where slow glycolysis begins. The pyruvate is shuttled to the mitochondria and enters the Krebs cycle once again forming more ATP. The oxidative system synthesizes ATP at a slower rate but maximizes the number of ATPs produced. Basically, the bodybuilder now can do another set of intense squats. 


Issues digesting and breaking down carbohydrates is a huge issue amongst overweight people. Bodybuilders frequently utilize low to zero carbohydrate diets to rid the body of adipose tissue and drop weight but inadvertently will positively impact insulin sensitivity.  Diabetes mellitus is a disease where the body is unable to transport glucose out of the bloodstream and into cells. Low carb diets is usually the go to for people suffering from this issue. 



So whether a trainer, massage therapist, or naprapath, it is important to truly educate patients on just how the body produces energy from the food we eat. Carbohydrates are not the enemy and the body will do all it can to survive. So knowing just how the body uses the nutrition we consume will help a patient make better choices outside the clinic and make future treatments that much easier to treat. Naprapathy states that” a normal body is a healthy body!”  (Zayner 2016) This holds true with the food we eat. The healthy the more nutrient-dense foods we eat, the healthier our bodies will be due to faster recovery, increased energy, improved digestion, and better quality of sleep. 



Follow me @drocbody IG & Twitter (2018, September 23). Oxidative decarboxylation of Pyruvate. Retrieved August 12, 2020, from


Cann, K. (2020, July 28). Understanding Glycolysis: What It Is and How to Feed It. Retrieved August 12, 2020, from


Culvert, L. L. (2017). Energy Metabolism. In J. L. Longe (Ed.), The Gale Encyclopedia of Nutrition and Food Labels (pp. 180-184). Farmington Hills, MI: Gale. Retrieved from


Zayner DN, T., & LeVista DN, K. (2016). Theory and Principles of Naprapathy. 

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