Carbs are Good so Eat Them!!!!
It seems throughout the years one time or another all of the macronutrients our body’s need has been demonized for one reason or the other. First it was fats are bad for you, then protein is bad for your kidneys, now you hear carbohydrates are not necessary and they make you fat. Really carbs make you fat, I’m sure it has nothing to do with the ice cream and oreos you eat everyday?!?! So let’s just get this out of the way all macronutrients are great for you and you absolute want them all in your diet whether you are gaining weight or losing weight. Because remember whether you are gaining or losing the biggest thing is calories vs. calories out. But since carbs are the new new bad food I just wanted to take a second to go over some of the important things carbs do for you and why as an athlete you’d be best served not to neglect them.
The main purpose to consume carbs is that they give you energy and fuel for your workouts and is your bodies preferred fuel source (1). Have you ever tried working out without eating any carbs all day you feel slow and halfway into the workout its hard to pick up your water bottle because you are completely drained. This is why it is very important to have some type of carb source pre workout roughly 1-1 1/2 hrs before and if your workouts are long and strenuous enough you need some during your workout. These carbs not only will help shuttle nutrients where they need to go it will also help in releasing IGF-1 which is essential for muscle repair. These carbs are essential for you to keep performance at a high level throughout your entire workout and it also is huge on muscle recovery and muscle growth.
Carbohydrates are also essential for stopping protein degradation throughout a workout. As you workout whats going on in your muscles is that you are creating a bunch of micro tears, these tears are what can be the cause of soreness, but if your body is replenished with the right amount and kind of nutrients these tears repair faster and your muscles grow bigger. So what helps combat lack of muscle recovery the magical carbohydrate, it does this by spiking insulin in your body which is very anabolic, it inhibits the lipolysis, glycogenolysis, and proteolysis (protein breakdown) and it stimulates the shuttling of nutrients throughout the body and it stimulates glycogen synthesis, protein synthesis, and lipogenesis. (2) So essentially carbs help stimulate the building of muscles all while preventing them from breaking down. So as an athlete this is key to recovering faster from workout to workout so you can train harder and train more frequently which leads to bigger gains.
So now that you know the 2 big reasons why you need carbs as an athlete lets talk about the best times to eat them. You’re going to want to consume carbs when your body is most insulin sensitive which is at breakfast, pre, during and post workout. These meals or shakes should be when you consume the majority of your carbs because when your body is at its most sensitive to insulin is when it will best utilize those carbs for the reasons we talked about above. So there is a timing aspect to carbs and when carbs are at their highest its safe to keep fats at their lowest as fats will slow down the absorption process and like I said above carbs help shuttle nutrients so if you eat a crap ton of fat with these higher carb meals guess where that fat is likely to go, thats right straight to your adipose cells or fat cells. Which is why carbs can make you fat but now that you know why and when to utilize carbs it should help you improve performance and body composition.
1. Brosnan JT. “Comments on metabolic needs for glucose and the role of gluconeogenesis.” Eur J Clin Nutr. 1999
2. Gropper S. Sareen, Smith L. Jack, “Advance Nutrition and Human Metabolism 6th Edition” 2013