The struggle is real when it comes to carbs…but also real confusing. You can read a million different articles telling you, High Carb, Low Carb, Carb Cycle, etc. While these methods may work for some, they won’t work for everyone…but there is a method I figured out that will give you the best bang for your buck when it comes to dealing with carbs…you just have to follow a few simple rules:
One of two things happens when you consume carbs…they either go to the muscle and are stored as energy for future use, or they are broken down and stored as fat. Which one happens depends on a few things. How well does your body “use” carbs and when are you consuming these carbs.
How well your body uses carbs is referred to as “insulin sensitivity” When we consume carbs, the hormone Insulin is the gatekeeper and decides where those carbs go (muscle or fat). If your gatekeeper is working properly, your body will send those carbs to the muscle and use them as your primary fuel for workouts, therefore burning them as energy and replenishing them when finished. (This is best-case scenario) If your Insulin isn’t working properly, your gatekeeper will not know how to send them to the muscle and as a result, they get sent to fat storage. What determines if your gatekeeper is doing his job? The types of carbs you consume, when you consume them on a day-to-day basis and the type/intensity of your training.
Strength training is an anaerobic exercise that requires the use of carbs for muscle energy and performance. So, carbs stored in your muscle will be the first ones used when you perform a strength training type workout. If your muscle stores are already full and you continue to consume carbs throughout the day, they will not need them, therefore they will be sent to fat storage. In order to keep them full at the right times, you treat them like “putting gas in your car.” You aren’t going to refill your car after every little drive you take, only when you take a road trip or the gaslight comes on.
In simple terms, the best time to eat your carbs is when you actually need to… 60-90 minutes before a strength (or high intensity) workout…and/or 60-90 after a strength workout. This is the optimal time for your body to use those carbs properly, efficiently, and refuel for the next workout. You do not “need” them outside this window (general population) and by doing so, you run the risk of increasing belly/body fat.
First off, you all know what you can/should cut out of your diet today. I’m not going to talk about that stuff. If you can’t/don’t cut that stuff out, stop reading because this article will do nothing for you. Carbs are generally broken down to “simple” and “complex”…the difference being how fast your body can use the energy from each type. Simple, your body can breakdown to fuel almost instantly. This is good for intra and post-workout fuel (during and after workout). Complex, your body takes a longer process to break down, therefore the fuel is gradually used up. This is best pre-workout (before workout). The list acceptable for both types is short and easy to follow…
These don’t make the cut:
Cut the sugars, eat real fuel, and watch how your body feels and changes (for the better).
We talked about it above…if you think you are over-consuming or not very efficient at using your carbs, hit the reset button on your body. In other words, eliminate all carbs except your “pre-workout” ones. For those of you counting macros, you should consume about 50g during this meal, and minimal to none the rest of the day. By doing so it allows your body to slowly respond to the small amount of carbs you are giving it (as well as fuel your workout for that day). As they body gets better at using those carbs, it will be more efficient in the future when you increase your total carb count. This also means you need to fuel your body in other ways…and that is by increasing the amount of protein and fats you consume. These will become your primary fuel for all other daily tasks besides workout. This reset should take about 4 weeks on average, some faster and others may take a little longer. Again if you’re counting macros…increase your carb total by about 20-30g per week or as you feel necessary.