WHO DOESN’T LOVE CARBOHYDRATES??? Well, I think everyone does… However, when we eat carbs they can either go into the cell to be stored as fat or into the muscle and be used as energy. It requires a signal, usually from insulin, in order to dictate where the carbs go!
Carbohydrates have a bad reputation in both the health and fitness community. Many people avoid carbs completely, thinking that they are responsible for weight gain and other health problems. However, the truth is that carbs are an important part of a healthy diet, especially for active individuals. What people should be more focused on is what kind of carbs they eat, when they eat them and at what times…
Carbohydrates are the body's primary source of energy. When we eat carbs, they are broken down into glucose, which is then used by our cells for energy. However, when we eat too many carbs, our body can't use all of the glucose for energy and it gets stored as fat. Additionally, although carbohydrates are the primary source of fuel, your body can operate from FAT with the reduction or restriction of carbohydrates.
With the basics out of the way, let’s discuss a few TIPS on Carbs, their role, and when to eat them.
1. Working Out
When you exercise you are moving carbs in to the cells, muscle cells, to be used as energy. This happens because your ATP levels drop and your body, muscles, send signals saying that they are running out of energy… thus they need more replenishments! Therefore, following a workout you have more flexibility to consume carbs and have them be shuttled to your muscles for use!!
The timing and amount of carb intake can vary based on an individual's gender, body composition, and activity level. Generally, women need fewer carbs than men, but this can vary based on their activity level and muscle mass. Additionally, someone who is leaner (lower body fat percentage) can consume higher amounts of carbs. It is generally recommended, by the mainstream, to consume between 45-65% of your daily calories from carbs. I would argue that this percentage is wrong, only because it really only can be applied to highly active individuals who have a leaner body-fat percentage. For someone who is obese and non-active, I’d say 10-20% at most! My point, the number slides heavily depending on the individual.
When it comes to timing, it's best to eat carbs around your workouts (as mentioned above). Consuming carbs before exercise can provide your muscles with the necessary energy to perform at their best. Eating carbs after exercise can help replenish glycogen stores in your muscles and promote recovery. For example, if you're doing a high-intensity workout, you might want to consume some carbs about an hour before your workout. This could be a banana, a small sweet potato or even a rice cake. After your workout, you could consume a meal that includes a mix of complex carbs and protein, such as sweet potato, rice and high-quality animal protein. Again, like everything else, portion size depends on the individual.
When you're not exercising, it's best to choose complex carbs that are high in fiber and provide a slow and steady release of energy. This can help keep you feeling full and energized throughout the day. Examples of complex carbs include quinoa, sweet potatoes, and vegetables. As an added bonus, high fiber foods digest in the gut and create short-chained fatty acids, which are really beneficial for gut health, brain health and fat loss!
One of the main concerns with eating carbs is their effect on insulin. Insulin is a hormone that plays a major role in blood sugar within the body. Insulin, a hormone, is increased through the digestion of food, mainly carbs and sugar. When we eat carbs, our blood sugar levels rise, and insulin is released to help shuttle glucose into our cells. Your cells level of sensitivity to insulin plays a vital role in using carbs as fuel and not being stored in excess as fat in the cells. If you are not sensitive to insulin than your cells will reject insulin and the carbs will be more rapidly stored in the adipose tissue, including visceral fat! This can lead to insulin resistance, which can eventually lead to type 2 diabetes. By eating carbs properly, say around workout times, they can help improve insulin sensitivity and prevent insulin resistance.
Yes, eating carbs properly can actually be helpful in promoting insulin sensitivity. When we exercise, our muscles need glucose for energy. Eating carbs after a workout can help shuttle nutrients to the muscles for building and cellular health. When insulin levels are high, it promotes the uptake of amino acids into muscle cells, which are the building blocks of muscle tissue. This process, known as protein synthesis, is essential for muscle growth and repair. Therefore, consuming carbohydrates in combination with protein can help maximize the muscle-building benefits of insulin. It is important to note that excessive insulin production can lead to fat storage, so it is essential to consume carbohydrates in moderation and in combination with a balanced diet and regular exercise.
As a general rule, if you work out intensely for 45 minutes or more, you should use this opportunity to ingest carbohydrates so they can be used for good. Additionally, eating carbs during workouts can be effective too, particularly when you haven’t eaten any food (i.e. fasting) for hours prior to the workout!
3. Low Glycemic Carbohydrates
Not all carbs are created equal! First, the glycemic index scale is not the end all be all because you normally do not eat carbohydrates by themselves so other macronutrients slow the digestion process down.
The key to eating carbs properly is to choose the right types of carbs and eat them in moderation. Complex carbs like whole grains, sweet potatoes, fruits, and vegetables are a better choice than simple carbs like sugary drinks and processed foods. Aim for a balanced diet that includes a variety of nutrients from different food groups.
Choosing low glycemic carbs can have a positive impact on both fat loss and muscle gain. Low glycemic carbs have a slower digestion rate, meaning they are absorbed into the bloodstream at a slower rate, which leads to a more gradual increase in blood sugar levels. This slower digestion rate can help to prevent spikes in insulin levels, which can lead to fat storage. In addition, low glycemic carbs can provide sustained energy levels, which can help to fuel workouts and aid in muscle growth.
Here are some examples of low glycemic vegetables and fruits:
Low glycemic vegetables:
- Green beans
Low glycemic fruits:
- Berries (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries)
Some Ideas for FOOD with NO INSULIN SPIKE:
- Shirataki Noodles… soluble fiber, which means it draws water in, and it can take a while for your body to breakdown in the gut, which means it can feed the microbiome
- Hearts of Palm Noodles… soluble fiber as well
- Flaxseed (crackers)
- Swiss Chard (great veg for gut health)
It's important to note that the glycemic index of fruits and vegetables can vary depending on factors such as ripeness and preparation method. However, in general, the fruits and vegetables listed above tend to have a lower glycemic index compared to other fruits and vegetables. Lastly, as mentioned prior, when looking to slow down the glycemic rate you can add fiber, protein and/or fat to the meal and that will change the GI score.
4. Body-Fat Percentage & Gender Matters
I can keep this simple by stating… the leaner you are the more carbs you can eat without them being stored as fat while the fatter you are the less carbs you should eat.
The timing and amount of carb intake can vary based on an individual's gender, body composition, and activity level. Generally, women need fewer carbs than men, but this can vary based on their activity level and muscle mass. A good rule of thumb is to consume between 45-65% of your daily calories from carbs if you are active and considered a lean body-fat percentage. However, this is a general rule and as we have learned in more recent times, science dictates, you can reduce your carbs to nearly zero or really low and still thrive from consuming more fat! But let’s analyze this a little further…
When it comes to eating carbs, there are a few things to consider in terms of body fat percentages and gender. It's important to remember that everyone's body is different and will respond differently to carbohydrates. However, there are some general guidelines that can help you determine the right amount of carbs for your body.
First, let's talk about body fat percentages. Body fat percentage is the amount of body fat you have compared to your total body mass. It's important to maintain a healthy body fat percentage, as having too much body fat can increase your risk of health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers.For men, a healthy body fat percentage is typically between 10-20%. For women, it's typically between 20-30%. However, these ranges can vary depending on factors such as age, fitness level, and genetics.
Now, let's talk about carbs. Carbohydrates are an important source of energy for the body. However, eating too many carbs can lead to weight gain and an increase in body fat percentage. On the other hand, not eating enough carbs can lead to fatigue and a decrease in athletic performance.
So, how many carbs should you be eating? It depends on your individual needs and goals. Generally, it's recommended that carbohydrates make up 45-65% of your daily calorie intake. However, this range can vary depending on factors such as your activity level and body composition. For most people I help with nutrition, and these people lift and do some cardio generally, I do not recommend that high of a percentage of carbs.
For example, if you're a woman with a body fat percentage of 25% and you're moderately active, you may want to aim for the lower regarding total carbohydrate intake (25-35%). On the other hand, if you're a man with a body fat percentage of 15% and you're highly active, you may want to aim for the higher end of the carbohydrate range (65%). This would equate to about 325 grams of carbs per day if you're consuming 2,500 calories per day.
It's important to note that these are just general guidelines and everyone's needs will be different. It's always a good idea to consult with an expert in this field to determine the right amount of carbs your body needs!
MY FINAL WORDS
Eating carbs properly is important for maintaining a healthy diet and promoting insulin sensitivity. The timing and amount of carb intake can vary based on individual factors, but in general, it's best to consume complex carbs in moderation and around your workouts for optimal energy and recovery. It's important to pay attention to your body's hunger and fullness cues and adjust your carb intake accordingly.
If you have any more questions or comments, feel free to contact me via email at FMFMark@gmail.com or leave questions in the comment section below. Thank you for reading!
Carbs Effect on Blood Sugar and Insulin:
1. American Diabetes Association. Carbohydrate counting. Diabetes Care. 2016;39:S1-S2.
2. American Heart Association. Carbohydrates and Blood Sugar. Accessed on September 22, 2021.
Carbs Digestion around Workout Times:
3. Burke LM, Hawley JA, Wong SH, Jeukendrup AE. Carbohydrates for training and competition. Journal of Sports Sciences. 2011;29:S17-S27.
4. Jentjens RL, Jeukendrup AE. High rates of exogenous carbohydrate oxidation from a mixture of glucose and fructose ingested during prolonged cycling exercise. British Journal of Nutrition. 2005;93:485-492.