Carbohydrates: What You Need To Know

If you read our last article where we discuss protein and how much of it you need to eat, you’ll know that there are numerous camps, each with differing views regarding the optimal way to include protein within your diet.

The arguments surrounding carbohydrates make the arguments surrounding protein sound mild! For the majority of nutritionists and nutritional advisors out there, carbohydrates are the body’s primary source of energy during exercise, and so, therefore, should make up the majority of an individuals diet – sounds reasonable enough, right? Although rational, a carbohydrate focussed diet does not seem to be the optimal choice for men seeking to build muscle while at the same time losing fat.

Whilst it is true that carbohydrates are your body’s preferred energy source during short, intense exercise such as strength training, it must be remembered that this style of exercise does not burn off that many calories, maybe 300 – 500 per hour of exercise.

For those that are now thinking, “Ah but what about the calories burned off during the 24 to 48 hours after your workout?” OK, you’re right, you do burn off more calories than usual, but studies show this seems to happen regardless of the composition of your diet.

It’s possible to get around 300 calories from around 75 grams of carbs (which isn’t really a difficult task to eat). You can get 272 calories from just 4 Weetabix biscuits without even adding milk!

Carbohydrates appear to mostly be key at two points in the muscle building process; that is immediately before and after your workout or you pre and post workout meals when carbs and protein combine to form insulin.

Insulin allows the cells in the muscles, fat and liver to absorb glucose that is in the blood. The glucose serves as energy to these cells, or it can be converted into fat when needed. Insulin also affects other metabolic processes, such as the breakdown of fat or protein.

Many experts are now recommending that in addition to the importance of your post-workout meal, it may be advisable to eat carbs and protein within an hour before exercise.

If your goal is to build muscle, it’s hard to say whether carbs are vital at other times of the day. It’s difficult to give one hard and fast rule that will apply to everyone, but a good rule of thumb is that if you’re struggling to lose weight, cut the amount of carbs you’re eating as they’re converted into fat when you don’t need them. Also, when there are no carbs to burn, your body will resort to suing fat as it’s energy source.

If on the other hand, you’re struggling to gain weight, it makes sense to add more carbs to your diet.

*The views and/or opinions expressed in the blogs are not necessarily those of Training Nation, but of the author

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