Carbs, should you really be cutting back to achieve weight loss and muscle mass?
Ever since low-carb diets exploded onto the weight-loss scene, carbohydrates have been demonized, avoided, and targeted as a dietary evil.
Should you really be cutting back on carbs to achieve weight loss and muscle mass?
The truth is, we all need carbs in our diets, every single day.
Whether you’re working out to gain muscle mass, to lose fat, or for better performance, to achieve your goal you need sustained energy.
One of two things happens when you run out of steam in the middle of a workout:
- You stop early and don’t train for as long as you had planned.
- You finish your workout, but hold back and don’t push as hard.
In either case, running out of energy during a workout means a compromised workout.
One method of sustaining energy throughout a workout is by maximizing glycogen storage.
Glycogen is the stored sugar in your liver that is released when you need more energy. If you don’t have enough stored up, your workout will go south quickly.
Guess what gives you that perfect glycogen build up before a workout?
Guess what is also important after a workout?
You got it: carbs.
After a training session, glycogen needs to be replenished. If it’s not, you could be seeing muscle breakdown, slow muscle recovery, and diminished performance overall.
What Kinds of Carbs Should You Be Eating?
There are two basic types of carbohydrates: simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates include simple sugars like glucose, fructose (fruit sugar), and sucrose (table sugar).
These simple carbs provide the quickest source of available energy. Think of the kid who starts bouncing off the walls after eating a piece of candy or drinking a soda.
For quick recovery of glycogen stores, simple carbs are your preferred source of energy post workout. They can also provide you with quick bursts of energy when you’re flagging during a workout.
Complex carbohydrates, like starch, are found in plant-based foods: whole grains and starchy vegetables such as potatoes. Complex carbohydrates provide sustained energy over longer periods of time, and also help replenish glycogen after training.
- Takeaway: Complex carbs are your best choice for sustained energy two to three hours before a workout. They are also a good choice for the post-workout recharge, but can be combined with simple carbohydrates for a quick fix.
Exactly what portion size you need depends on your current weight, your goals, and the purpose of a training session.
If your goal is to get through a long cardiovascular endurance workout, you need more glycogen build up in advance.
If your goal is strength training or resistance training, you don’t need quite as much in your glycogen storehouse.
Likewise, for post-workout carb intake, you need more to replenish after a long endurance workout than after a strength training session.
The bottom line is that you NEED Carbs both pre- and post-workout for sustained energy, improved performance, and better muscle recovery.