Updated: Jul 31, 2022
Are Carbohydrates Necessary Post-Workout? Well, are they???
Let’s cut right to the chase, do carbs make you fat? With so many off-putting diets on the market today, in collaboration with ill informed tips on carbohydrates, it should be no surprise that fad “carb free” diets are so popular. The mistake comes from a lack of understanding about what carbohydrates truly are; when the right time to eat them is; which ones should be chosen; and a populist ideal of attaining immediate weight loss.
What are Carbohydrates? Carbs, also known as saccharides, are comprised of a carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. Every carb contains water, which makes immediate weight loss possible (i.e. “the magic pill”). Removing carbs from a diet results in an immediate loss in water weight. Here are the four categories of carbohydrates:
1. Monosaccharides are simple carbohydrates; they are sweet and are better known as sugar.
2. Disaccharides are carbs that are formed from a reaction between two monosaccharides that result in sucrose, lactose and maltose; more commonly known as table sugar, beet sugar, milk sugar, etc…
3. Oligosaccharide is a saccharide that is comprised of numerous smaller simple sugars. Some forms can only be partially digested by humans. Some are short-chain fructose found in fruits and vegetables.
4. Polysaccharides are long-chain carbohydrates that come in the form of starches and glycogen, which are the most common form of energy from breaking down starches into glycogen; fiber is in this group.
With an understanding of the different types of carbohydrates behind us, let’s discuss how this affects workouts and recovery.
Ingesting carbohydrates result in the greatest release of insulin post-workout, which is essential for optimal muscle building.
Whey protein is naturally insulin sensitive as well. However, results have shown that insulin sensitivity is much higher with carbohydrate and protein combined together (2). Carbs will not only increase insulin sensitivity but they will also inhibit the dangerous hormone cortisol.
Carbohydrates have proven successful in aiding in the blunting of cortisol during and immediately after working out, as well as over the hours following the workout. Blunting cortisol is vital for creating an anabolic (cell building) environment within the body. Anabolic environments are essential for decreasing fat levels, building lean muscle, and increasing strength. Cortisol has many other dangers that include cell destruction, depression, and fatigue.
Now that we know carbohydrates are in fact beneficial, when is it ok to take them post-workout?
Persons with the sole goal of fat loss may not need to add in carbohydrates post-workout because whey protein provides enough insulin response. Supplementing with solely whey protein post-workout has still shown to increases insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF1) and growth hormone (GH), which are both essential hormones to increase lean muscle and burn body fat.
If your goal is to increase lean muscle and strength studies have shown that persons who supplement with glucose and whey post-workout, while training for strength and hypertrophy, stimulate a greater anabolic response. Therefore, if your primary goal is to gain muscle and increase strength, supplement with carbohydrates may be needed.
Lastly, if your goal is fat loss, along with strength and muscle building, than supplementing with carbohydrates on your maximal loaded workout days is helpful. Choose 15-20 grams of carbohydrates combined with 20-25 grams of whey protein, with 10-15 grams coming from BCAA’s.
NOTE: Men, your free-testosterone levels are affected as a result of the workouts you choose and not whether or not you ingest carbs and whey protein or whey protein solely.
*Whey Protein is the by-product of the cheese making process in milk that contains essential Amino Acids. Hydrolyzed is broken down in to smaller sizes then in normal milk and can thus reduce any allergic reaction. Here is my favorite post-workout Whey Protein Isolate and the one I like to use mixed in smoothies, oatmeal, etc...
AGN Roots is MY ALL AROUND CHOICE (click the image to buy)
PROMIX IS MY POST_WORKOUT PROTEIN (click your flavor)
Thank you for reading!!
1. BCAA Levels are Associated with Improvement in Insulin Resistance with Weight Loss.
Shah, S., Crosslin, D., et al. Diabetologia. February 2012. 55(2), 321-324.
2. Kazemzadeh, Y., et al. Effects of Carbohydrate-Protein Intake During Exercise on Hormonal Changes and Muscular Strength After 12-Week Resistance training. Journal of Basic Applied Scientific Research. 2012. 2(6), 5945-5951.