Did that title get your attention?! It should have, and that was the point.
Now, I am not saying that low carbohydrate diets are bad. Low carbohydrate diets can be extremely benefitial for people suffering from Alzheimers, Lyme’s disease, and a list of other chronic disease and illnesses. High fat/high protein diets have been proven to be beneficial when it comes to weight loss for sedentary individuals. When it comes to active individuals, however, following a low-carb diet can be detrimental to your performance, lean muscle gains, fat loss, brain function, and over all metabolism.
What is a Carbohydrate?
A carbohydrate is a large biological molecule, or macromolecule, consisting of carbon (C), hydrogen (H), and oxygen (O) atoms, usually with a hydrogen: oxygen atom ratio of 2:1 (as in water); – Wikipedia
What is the function of Carbohydrates in the body?
The roles of carbohydrate in the body includes providing energy for working muscles, providing fuel for the central nervous system, enabling fat metabolism, and preventing protein from being used as energy. Carbohydrate is the preferred source of energy or fuel for muscle contraction and biologic work.
Foods that fall into the carbohydrate group include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, refined sugar, sodas, breakfast cereals, rice, legumes, and some dairy products.
Within this list of carbohydrates we will break it down into two simplified Carbohydrate groups; Simple Carbohydrates and Complex Carbohydrates.
Simple Carbohydrates include: fruits, refined sugars, sodas, candy, pastries, refined flour, white rice and fruit juices
Complex Carbohydrates include: oatmeal, pasta, whole grains, quinoa, potatoes, brown rice, legumes, and starchy vegetables
Simple Carbohydrates are easily broken down into glucose and absorbed in the small intestine, glucose then enters the blood stream (approximately 15-30 minutes) spiking blood sugar levels rapidly. This is ideal when you need quick, short bursts of energy. Glucose is then further broken down into glycogen which is the storage form of carbohydrate. Glycogen is stored in our liver and muscle tissue which allows for readily available energy sources during exercise when we have the proper carbohydrate balance in the diet. Simple carbohydrates are the perfect post workout snack as they release glucose quickly into the bloodstream, spareing the body the need to break down muscle for energy.
Complex Carbohydrates take longer to break down and absorb into the small intestine. These carbohydrates act like a drip feed system, slowly breaking the carbohydrates down into glucose which then releases into the blood stream over a period of time. Your body will start breaking down complex Carbohydrates in approximately 30 minutes after consumption and will continue over the next hour or so depending on quantity and what was consumed along side the Carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates are great to spread out throughout the day or to consume for your pre and post workout meals as they release a slow and steady stream of glucose into the blood stream providing a consistent stream of energy for longer periods.
Ok, now that the small lecture is over, its time to look at what this means for you and your fitness goals!!
When you perform physical activity, running, weight lifting, sports etc. your body uses glycogen (storage form of Carbohydrates) to contract muscles! So what would happen if you didn’t have glycogen to contract those muscles? Well, your body is so efficient that it will use its own resources to convert into glucose. This process is known as gluconeogenesis. When it comes to physical activity, gluconeogenesis breaks down amino acids in the muscle tissue to convert into glucose. That means that when our body is lacking glycogen in the muscles, it will pull from muscle tissue instead to create glucose for muscle contraction. That’s right, we have now become catabolic, eating our own muscle tissue so that we are able to perform the activities we are demanding from the body.
The more muscle mass you have, the faster your resting metabolism or basal metabolic rate (BMR) is. Meaning, if you weight 125lbs and 90lbs of that is muscle, you may be burning around 1500 calories per day, doing absolutely nothing. This is your BMR. Whereas the person next to you may have 125lbs with only 60lbs of muscle, which would leave them burning (BMR) around 1100 calories per day doing nothing. Now, that number is not so hot. I believe you could consume that number of calories with a single Venti Frapp from Starbucks. The remaining caloric consumption of the day would then just be excess!! Is this starting to sink in a little?!
So lets look at a semi typical scenario. You hit your strength training routine for 45 minutes to an hour, which is right around the time the body starts to deplete its storage glycogen and become catabolic. Then, you go run some errands, get a call from a friend, meet for drinks and before you know it, 3 hours have passed and you haven’t refueled your amazing workout. If just 1 hour has passed without proper refueling, you have just set yourself up for severe glycogen depletion which means massive muscle catabolism, which leads to an lower BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate).
Now, how do you implement this fabulous information into your workout program?
Well my friends, I can only tell you what I do, everyone is very different. The below, however, has worked well for myself and my clients;
Pre Workout: Complex carbs and protein about 1-2hrs prior to your workout.
Immediately Post Workout: Simple carbohydrates and whey protein. My preference right now is Black Cherry Shot Bloks (Bonus! they contain caffeine) and Muscle Pharm Cookies and Cream Protein Powder.
1-1.5hrs Following Post Workout: Complex carbs and protein
The result is increased energy, increased muscle mass when performing weight lifting, increased brain function, increased strength and of course, the bragging rights to say I am on a high carbohydrate diet and I am strong and lean!
The last piece of this puzzle is finding out what your caloric and macronutrient (Protein/Carb/Fat) ratio and requirements should be for your specific goals. There are many calculators online that will help you to discover what those are.
I hope this helped to solve another piece of your fitness puzzle. For more info, please contact the Ahmiel Personal Training Team.