FACT: Carb consumption = Insulin release = Elevated blood Glucose/sugar levels
Is this always a bad thing?!
No, not at all!
Insulin is classified as an “anabolic” hormone. Which in simple terms, means it’s a “re-build” hormone. Anabolism is a recovery phase or process, on the opposite side of the spectrum, Catabolism (a breakdown hormone) is a phase/process in which you break the body down. An example would be any form of exercise, where the goal is to break down muscle tissue with the intention of it re-generating stronger and bigger! Working out is a catabolic process and sleeping or eating would be classified as an Anabolic process.
A great time for high insulin
As you can see, Insulin can be a very beneficial hormone! Let’s imagine you’ve just finished a hard, gruelling 45 minute plus weight training/bodybuilding style workout. Towards the end of the workout, your Cortisol levels will begin to rise (this is natural). However, once your workout is complete, it’s time to bring that Cortisol down!
Bringing Cortisol down = Kick-starting the recovery process
So how do we do that? Well a very effective method is to consume a “post-workout” meal. Of which contains a certain dose of Carbohydrates. As we know, Carbohydrates raise Insulin and the rise of Insulin will automatically lower and clear the built up Cortisol.
Insulin and Cortisol is a constant balancing act!
Just like a see-saw, Insulin is related to Cortisol. A dose of Insulin will do a fantastic job of flushing out workout produced Cortisol. Once that Cortisol is cleared, the body is no longer in a “Catabolic” state. Then, you are on the road to recovery!
Other benefits of Carbs/Insulin post workout
Why else are Carbs helpful after a workout? There are numerous reasons:
- They replenish Muscle Glycogen, which is depleted through weight-training/exercise
- The Insulin carries other vital nutrients such as Protein right where they are needed in a post workout state……your muscles!
- By restoring Muscle Glycogen and providing broken down muscles with essential Amino acids/Proteins, you prevent further breakdown of the trained muscles that could occur once the workout is completed
- Also by restoring used Glycogen, you are “re-fuelled” for your next workout. Your muscle cells will have enough potential energy for adequate intensity output
So can we “Carb up” to the nines and have Carbs spewing out from our mouth?
Maybe you read the last paragraph and bullet list and thought……….”Awesome! I can eat as many carbs as I want, I just have to workout!” Hey, not so fast! Sure, carbs are beneficial post workout. But just how many and what type of carbs suit your goals is a more complex process.
How long did you workout? A 20 minute workout session will not warrant as many carbs post workout as a 40-60 minute session. Also, doing ten sets of ten on Squats is a world away from 3 sets of 10 of Dumbell curls!
Doing ten sets of ten on squats would tax your body tremendously! By the way, I’ve yet to have the pleasure/honour of such an “experience”. You would also deplete a vast quantity of muscle Glycogen. The leg muscles are huge! Hence why any good fat loss plan will have you performing a considerable amount of work that calls in to play the Quads, Glutes and Hamstrings.
If you had found the warrior within and actually finished a 10×10 Squat workout, then you would need a hefty dose of Carbs to replenish all the used Glycogen!
The take home lesson is; post workout carbs should be based around common sense relating to the VOLUME of work you performed.
Your specific fitness/physique aspirations are a key component too!
If you are in a fat loss phase and you’re primarily focused on shedding a considerable amount of body fat, you will inevitably reach your goals faster by limiting your overall carbohydrate intake overall, including post workout. This ties in very neatly with another major factor in Carb consumption: how much body fat you actually have!
The fatter you are, the more likely your body will store the post workout carbs as fat and not use them to replenish Glycogen (like they would in a leaner individual)
By having more fat cells present, your body is well adapted to storing any ingested carbs as extra body fat! This is why restricting carbs intake overall when attempting to lose fat, is a super effective approach. You want to coax your body into adapting instead, to using stored BODY FAT as fuel!
On the flip-side, a lean individual who’s goal is to add muscle size to their frame, will likely need a significantly higher dose of post workout carbs.
Somebody who is way down on the “skinny scale” with very low body fat (not skinny-fat, where you have a high body fat percentage in relation to percentage of lean muscle tissue) who has the goal of adding muscle mass, will warrant many more carbs.
They are already lean and as we know, the leaner you are, the more “Insulin sensitive” you are naturally. So there would be very little chance of the post workout carbs being stored as fat. Particularly as they will be consuming them after a hard training session. Also as they are trying to build new muscle, they want maximum Glycogen replenishment.
Lets put it into a layman’s terms perspective
If you are 25% body fat or above, you may only need 20-30 grams of carbs post workout TOPS after a 40 or more minute training session. As your goal here is leaning out. Research has shown 30 grams of crabs is plenty when it comes to adequacy concerning muscle Glycogen restoration and Cortisol reduction.
If you are 7% body fat for example and have just completed a gruelling, high volume leg workout, you may be taking in 200 grams of carbs or MORE! That’s because the 7% body fat person’s body will use all those carbs efficiently and purely towards restoring all the depleted Glycogen and also bringing the built up Cortisol down to the acceptable range. As a bonus, the large dose of carbs will produce a vast Insulin spike and this will accelerate the transportation of Proteins to the broken down muscle tissue. An essential factor concerning muscle building.
Basically, get lean and “deserve” larger doses of carbs!
In part 3 I will delve into the types of Carbs certain individuals should eat in addition I’ll also throw my own experience of the carb spectrum (Having been over 25% body fat previously and as low as 6-7% in recent times) I feel I am quite qualified!
See you fitness and nutrition enthusiasts in a few days!