I get a LOT of questions about carbohydrates. It’s understandable, considering
the myriad of different diets there are out there. Hopefully, this article will
help clear up some of those questions as well as give you a better understanding
of how and just importantly, WHEN you should be consuming them.
First off, cutting dietary carbohydrates to zero is NOT an option. A certain
amount of sugar is needed to maintain and build muscle. The process of building
muscle not only depends on the amino acids that we derive from protein, but also
the delivery system that is controlled by insulin, which can only be released upon
consumption of carbohydrates.
So, let’s look at the two main types of carbohydrates.
From a fat loss perspective, your best choice of carbohydrates are cruciferous, or
fibrous carbohydrates. These are found in green, leafy vegetables such as
lettuce, spinach, kale, broccoli, etc… They are low on the glycemic index, which
is a measure of how fast sugar is absorbed into the bloodstream. This means that
their metabolic impact is low. The nice thing about fibrous carbs is that it is
very difficult to overeat them.
Secondary carbs would be safe, starchy carbs. These will cause an exaggerated
spike in blood sugar if eaten too frequently, in larger portions, or at less than
beneficial times, which we’ll discuss shortly. Remember that a spike in blood
sugar will release excess insulin, which helps convert and store excerss carbs as
fat. Examples of these are oatmeal, rice, quinoa, whole grain pasta.
So now we understand the difference between the two main types of carbs. Let’s
move on to the timing. The key to remember here is that carb timing along with
portion size will determine whether fat is stored or burned.
Starchy carbs are best eaten early in the day. Ideally, you should be eating 5-6
“meals” throughout your day, spaced as evenly apart as you can. This helps keep
your metabolism “stoked”, rather than the traditional 3 meals a day which allows
for long periods of time where the body can go into it’s starvation mode in where
it becomes more efficient at fat preservation. Eating your starchy carbs early in
the day will best assure that you’ll use them for energy for your activities
rather than for storage as fat when eaten close to your bedtime. My rule of thumb
is to stop consuming starches by lunch if you’re really serious about fat loss.
Now the exception to this is post workout nutrition. One of the best times to eat
starchy carbs is right after your workout. You have about a 1 hour window where it
is actually VERY beneficial to eat these higher glycemic carbs so that the release
of insulin is quicker and that they will go almost exclusively towards muscle
reparation and recovery.
Final thing to remember is that you ALWAYS want to include good protein at EVERY
feeding. Protein is essential for muscular development and repair, and it helps
slow the absorption of carbohydrates as well.
Monitoring and controlling your carb intake and timing goes a LONG way towards
helping your achieve a lower body fat index. When performed in conjunction with a
solid resistance training program and cardio, you’ll be amazed at the changes you
can make in your body.
Stay Fit Forever!