Carbohydrates are the most annoying macronutrient. They taste the best, are unecessary for the human body to function (not essential), and they cause most people’s unwanted fat gain. Before I go into carbs I need to give a little tiny amount of background information on insulin. I am not writing this post trying to teach future MD’s, I am merely trying to create self educated gym-goers who will have the basic foundation set so that they can make improvements. Without a foundation, in my experience, any complex knowledge of high level stuff, simply confuses clients, and they don’t see the forest for the trees. This is a VERY BRIEF overview of insulin.
Insulin is a storage hormone. When foods are eaten, the final destination is not the stomach. The final destination is the muscle, the liver, or fat cells. Once you eat, the food you have eaten goes into your liver and bloodstream. Insulin’s job is getting glucose (the form carbohydrates take once digested) out of the blood (preventing hyperglycemia, which is toxic to the brain and organs). From here the glucose can go to either a fat or muscle cell(via insulin). Insulin sensitivity is a term used to describe what percentage of your blood sugar will make its way to the muscles via insulin. Insulin sensitivity varies greatly from individual to individual, and varies greatly throughout the day as well. Insulin sensitivity is at its highest during and immediately following heavy weight workout (because the workout depletes muscle glycogen). That is why post workout is the best time to eat a lot of carbs.
People with high insulin sensitivity are the ones who can eat a lot of carbs and maintain a tight, toned body. The guy who eats junk and is big and ripped, and the girl who eats normal and has a great body. People with poor insulin sensitivity are the ones who are always hungry, and always fat. The insulin gives them chronically low blood sugar(insulin remains elevated after glucose is absent from the bloodstream), so they eat carbs, because low blood sugar causes carb cravings (more and more and more), insulin shuttles the carbs to fat cells so they won’t be used for energy until they’re on a diet, and then they once again have low blood sugar.
Intermittent Fasting and Low Carb Dieting will repair poor insulin sensitivity. In less severe cases low glycemic diets can work as partial step towards lower blood sugar.
Much like whey is the best option post workout, and the worst at all other times, high glycemic index CHO are the best option post workout, and the worst at other times. Let’s cover post-workout shakes first. Unless you are on an extremely serious diet and are very ripped (the extremity of any diet should depend on the conditioning of the client. More ripped people need more extreme diets to burn fat)… Anyways, unless you are preparing for some type of competition, high glycemic carbs post workout are the best option. These include bread, pasta, bagels, gatorade, soda, candy, dextrose, waxy maize starch, maltodextrin, bannana, pineapple, etc. It all depends on whether your unique body has more trouble burning fat or building muscle. Extremely insulin insensitive individuals who can’t handle carbs can go low glycemic post-workout, as can extreme dieters with deadlines. For most athletes/clients, post-workout is the time to get any temptation out of the way. Yes gatorade is better pwo than gummy worms… How much better? Not that much of a difference. Get temptation out of the way post-workout, if you have any type of sweet food weakness, use the post-workout period to indulge that. (This seems like irrelevant advice, but in practice, it causes less cheating, and eating cheescake after a heavy legs day doesn’t qualify as cheating, but it does at any other time).
Starch vs. Sugars
At this stage in the game, to ponder on starches vs sugars will be counterproductive. There is no need to focus on scientific facts that don’t directly affect the practical results you are trying to acheive. The focus should be on the glycemic index (impact on blood sugar). Starches digest completely differently from sugars, but it is not something that heavily affects aesthetics or sports performance for the most part. Focus on the gi of the food.
Good low glycemic options for meals for fuit are all dark berries, including rasberries, blackberries, strawberries, cherries, and vegetables including all green veggies, and moderate amounts of carrots and tomatoes. Good starchy low GI carbs include brown rice, sweet potatoes, and oatmeal.
You can lower the glycemic index of any meal by adding fiber or fat, and you can raise the glycemic index of any meal by heating it up or liquifying it (blender).
Absolute numbers of carbs are a bit harder to define for all clients and athletes as a group because each individual person’s insulin sensitivity varies so much. A good place to start is to try and not have any carbs around the workouts in which fat loss is the goal. So no carbs 3 hours before or 3 hours after a fat loss workout. Depending on where the athlete is currently at as far as bodyfat percentage, weight lifting/strength training may also be deemed a “fat-loss” workout in addition to cardio and become a no/low carb period. The fatter the client is, the more likely this will be the case. It also depends on the goal. If rambo/bruce lee was the goal there would be less carbs than if leonitis from 300 was the goal physique. The no carb route involves faster fat loss and also faster muscle loss, thus lowering the ideal bodyweight at the finish of the diet.