The importance of Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates have a time and a place. During my programs, I have periods where you will use little to no carbohydrates and also times that you will be eating as much as you can handle. To simplify carbohydrates, let’s just say that their main purpose is to provide fuel and and energy to our bodies. Carbohydrates, which unfortunately for some, are absorbed into the body differently depending on the person. Some people can burn through high amounts of carbohydrates and not put on any fat, whereas others, have a hard time burning the carbs and therefore are more prone to putting on fat. Carbohydrates are essential for providing our bodies with energy and promoting muscle gain. However, as you may already know, not all carbs are created equally and it is therefore important to understand which types of carbs will cater for your specific goals and needs.
Due to carbs being the easiest macronutrient to digest and then be converted into glucose, they are therefore the body’s preferred source of energy. Glucose is the form of sugar that the human body uses for energy and henceforth, whatever form of carbohydrate we consume, the end result of digestion is glucose. However, being that there are many forms of carbohydrates, the pathway of digestion that leads to glucose is what can affect our energy levels, performance and even physical functioning.
To understand how these different carbohydrates can affect our energy levels and performance, it is important to have an understanding of the digestion of carbohydrates in relation to our training. Since digestion occurs in the stomach, the amount of time required partly depends on the complexity of the carb source (complex or simple). Absorption then occurs in the small intestine once the carbs have been converted to glucose. Therefore, if we are going to train within 1-2 hours after consuming carbs, our bodies will then immediately use that glucose as energy. It is important to note, however, that if we train later in the day after consuming carbohydrates, our bodies will then store this glucose into either muscle or liver glycogen stores. If we don’t find a way to use these glycogen stores, it will then be converted into body fat. So, with that being said, it is imperative that we time our carbohydrate intake correctly with our training programs to ensure that it is being beneficial to the personal goal and workout regime.
The importance of carbohydrates
Out of the three macronutrients (proteins, carbohydrates and fats), our bodies don’t necessarily need carbohydrates to survive. However, if the goal in training is to achieve muscle gain, optimally we will need to have carbohydrates in our diet. These carbohydrates need to be manipulated around our insulin sensitivity, total calorie intake and training. As mentioned before, depending on the time of day we consume carbohydrates and how we burn them off, it has a strong effect on the results we can achieve throughout the training.
As previously mentioned, I referred to the effect carbohydrates can have on different people. Those people that seem to be able to eat loads of carbohydrates and never put on fat, generally tend to have a higher insulin sensitivity. This means that their bodies can clear glucose from carbohydrates out of their bloodstream in a more efficient manner than those people who eat carbohydrates and put on fat a lot faster. Once minimum protein requirements are met, carbohydrates are the most anabolic food source we consume. Therefore, carbs are an essential requirement to keep your body in an anabolic state and as a result of this, imperative to maintain and promote muscle mass.
Different carbohydrate sources
There are two types of carbohydrates. High glycemic fast acting carbs (simple carbs) which provide the body with a quick energy source and low glycemic slow acting carbs (complex carbs) which are slow digesting but provide energy for longer periods. Some examples of foods that contain a high amount of simple carbs include candy, honey, juices and fruit. Similarly, you can find complex carbs in whole wheat, bran cereals, sweet potatoes and beans. This is to just name a few!
Without boring you and going into too much detail about our bodies insulin sensitivity, I will simply say that insulin sensitivity refers to how much insulin it takes to clear a certain amount of glucose (carbohydrates). With this being said, let’s look at when our bodies are most insulin sensitive and how we can take advantage of that. Most people will fast for 6-8 hours during their sleep, and henceforth, our bodies are craving nutrients early in the morning when we wake up. Similarly, pre and post workout are the best times for our bodies to assimilate a high amount of carbs into our muscle and tissues because our bodies are most insulin sensitive at this time. This increased insulin will help to shuttle those nutrients straight into our bloodstream and stimulate the release of insulin growth factors because our muscles will be in a volatile state after a workout and require nutrients to repair.
So, in conclusion, let’s go over a few of the main points to remember that I have made throughout this article. Carbohydrates are the most anabolic food source we can consume after our minimum protein requirements are met. They’re also the most metabolic macronutrient we consume. Therefore, the lower the carb intake is dropped, the more muscle is lost and the lower our metabolism drops, resulting in depleted energy levels. Always remember that no matter what the end goal of training is, never cut carbohydrates from your diet completely. During our training phases we need to utilize our carbohydrate intake based off our daily activity, nutrient timing and overall goals. Good luck with your goals and with any luck, this article has helped you to achieve a better understanding of carbohydrates that you can implement throughout your training. However, if you would like to leave it to the professionals and achieve maximum results, be sure to stop by my page aaronselkrig.com to see how I can help you maximise your results with a customised training program and diet. Good luck and happy gains!