“Eat carbs after 6pm and they will turn straight to fat”.
“All carbs make you fat”
Two things I lived by in my first 4 years of training. God, I wish I could get those years back…
Where did the hatred for carbs come from anyway? Who associated them with an increase in body fat, when energy balance was never discussed?
Well, fear not. I am here to help and save you from these myths.
Firstly – Can you add fat tissue when eating 90-100% of your food from carbs, after 6pm even while in a negative energy balance? Of course not.
Ok, let’s get cracking.
What are carbs?
Carbohydrates are a macronutrient, alongside protein and fat. They are a very efficient energy source which we can use in anaerobic pathways, also known as glycolysis (weight training, sprinting or exercise which lats shorter periods of times). They consist of 4 calories per gram are present in food such as potatoes, rice, sugar, fruit etc.
There are different types of carbs – simple and complex. These are defined by how quick or slow they release energy. Simple carbs such as sugars and jam etc. are much quicker absorbed, utilised and digestible. Complex carbs on the other hand are much slower to be absorbed, utilised and digested. Examples are foods like sweet potatoes and oats.
Glycogen – what is it?
Glycogen is a multi branched polysaccharide which provides the body with a readily available source of energy. It is mainly stored in the liver and muscle tissue itself. When we train hard, glycogen can become depleted. In layman’s terms – no glycogen = no energy. Thus, we need to replete it post workout. And the best way to do so, is through carbohydrates, specifically glucose.
Insulin and carb relationship
Insulin also gets a very bad name. Can I ask why? It is an anabolic hormone which has positive effects on growth of cells, isn’t it? Why should we not have it? Insulin is secreted from the pancreas when we ingest cabs and blood glucose is increased. Thus, there is a benefit of increasing blood glucose post workout, to allow for a spike in insulin.
What and when?
For me, carbs are THE most important around the pre, intra and post workout window (also known as the peri workout window).
Pre workout: I like to have something easily digestible before a workout. Something along the lines of oats and bananas with whey protein. For me these digest very well and I can utilise them well in sessions. Other options like rice krispies, ground or cream of rice are great options too. Aim to have your pre workout 120-150 mins before you train, to allow ample time to adequately digest food and utilise it in your session.
Intra workout: Do we have time to digest 100g of oats in the middle of a session? Of course not. These need to be extremely quick absorbing carbs. Supplements like cyclic dextrin are a very good source to use mid session to improve endurance and ability to train harder for longer.
Post workout: So, we have just trained, hopefully very hard. Glycogen levels will have taken a hit for sure (depletion). So, we will need to replete these levels. What better way to replete glycogen levels, than with glucose.
Now, back to insulin for a second. If we aim to raise blood sugar levels now, insulin will subsequently enter the body and move glucose from your blood into the cells for energy and storage and thus replenish glycogen levels.
So, what foods tick the box here? Easily digestible, fast acting carb sources. A personal favourite is a bagel(s) and jam with whey protein. Coco pops, rice krispie squares or again – cream of/ground rice are other fantastic options. Aim to have your post workout no earlier than 45 mins post training. You need the body to calm down it’s nervous system into parasympathetic dominance (rest and digest) again before you consume food.
Pre workout: I tend not to overdo carbs pre workout. Enough to allow you to: (1) easily digest them and (2) keep performance as high as ever. However, no one ever likes training on a bloated stomach. I will run them anywhere from 60-100g for males and 45-85g for females.
Intra workout: When talking about cyclic dextrin, anywhere between 35-70g, depending on level and experience. But also, don’t forget these are not calorie free. So be mindful of this too.
Post workout: In my view, the most important time of the peri workout for carbs. I have drafted up a little graph below as to how I orchestrate them with clients relative to their goals highlighted in the top row.
|1.0 g per minute trained||1.5g per minute trained||
2.0+ g per minute trained
|60 g per 60 mins training||90 g per 60 mins training||
120+ g per 60 mins training
Depending on weight, the emount of muscle tissue you have, lifting level and training age, these of course will be interchangeable. But for the average joe, this is what I like to run off.
So, hopefully I have shown you that carbs are a very, very important tool when it comes to improving performance and muscle growth. You can eat them, even after 6pm and they will not make your fat once energy balance is monitored. Make sure to use them heavily around the peri workout to get the most bang for their buck.
Please share this blog and let the world know – CARBS ARE GREAT!
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