Carbohydrates are very important for us, because they provide the energy that our body needs and prevent muscle loss. Normally, our bodies use carbohydrates from foods immediately if needed. Sometimes carbohydrates, which are surplus, are stored in skeletal muscles and liver tissue in the form of glycogen. During heavy exercise, our bodies stimulate glycogen breakdown into glucose with the help of different types of hormones and enzymes, and then release them into the blood stream. When the glucose level increases in the blood, the insulin hormone is secreted by pancreas. The glucose can’t enter cells without insulin.
The glucose, which reaches the muscle cells thanks to insulin, is converted to energy through two metabolic pathways: Anaerobic and aerobic glycolysis processes. During intense but short-term exercise, glucose provides short-term energy to the muscles and is metabolized mainly in the cytoplasm of the cells. Glucose breaks down through a process called anaerobic glycolysis, and at the end of this process our muscles get energy (ATP) in a short time without oxygen. However process makes lactic acid as a byproduct, which makes us tired. In longer, but less intense exercise, glucose produces more ATP through longer aerobic glycolysis processes.
As we mentioned above that, carbohydrates are stored in the muscle in the form of glycogen. If the level of glucose in the blood is too low, our bodies use these glycogen for energy. But where will the energy be provided in case of poor glycogen stores? In this case, the body primarily will consume energy sources such as sugar and fat. The body will use proteins as last resort. Our body begins to consume muscle proteins only in severe hunger conditions to guarantee itself.
In short, carbohydrates prevent the protein from turning into an energy source. To make our muscles strong and healthy, we should pay enough attention to the consumption of carbohydrates at our meals.