During exercise, you want your body to focus on working your muscles, not breaking down foods with lots of fiber. So contrary to what you want to do the rest of the time, at this point, you should feed your body simple sugars that are quickly absorbed and will give you bursts of energy. Just as you wouldn't start your car without gas in the engine, you shouldn't work out on empty when it comes to carbs.
What about after a workout?
You don't eat after exercise? So you just tore your muscles, depleted your store of energy and you are leaving it on empty? Not such a wise decision. The repair and re-growth of tissue relies not just on protein but also on replacing lost glycogen (broken-down carbohydrates) and fluids. Restore your body's energy with complex carbs—meaning fruit, grains, or vegetables paired with protein for muscle repair and growth. Good choices: yogurt and fruit, an apple and peanut butter, or a glass of skim chocolate milk.
The bottom line on how many carbs per day you need is that you don't need more than the average person if you exercise—and you certainly shouldn't be eating fewer. You just need to eat them wisely. That means having a serving of simple carbs before exercise and making sure that you replenish the carbs afterward, too.
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This article originally appeared on Shape.com.