Hello friends! Let's talk fat loss. I've been getting a lot of questions lately about when is the best time to eat carbs, and can you actually eat carbs and lose fat?
If the conditions are just right, you can in fact, lose fat while increasing your carb intake…
However, it’s all you and your circumstances and about how you time it with your training..
You see, there are a lot of misconceptions out there when it comes to carbs.
“Conventional Wisdom” may tell you that you can’t work out at high intensities without a good supply of carbs beforehand.
And this argument makes sense…
Because carbs give you energy, especially for certain intense types of exercise…
Plus, carbs are traditionally considered to be better absorbed in the morning (when your insulin sensitivity improves) than they are at night…
So naturally, you should eat carbs earlier in the day…right?
Well, not so fast…This is ONLY the case for those of us who DON’T work out consistently.
You see, insulin is the defining factor here (and the wrong levels of it might be keeping you FAT…).
Here’s how it works…
When you eat a carbohydrate rich meal, your blood sugar increases as the carbs are broken down into sugar, releasing glucose into your blood stream, to ensure that blood sugar levels don’t get out of control (this can kill you) insulin is released.
Insulin is a key hormone that moves that sugar (AKA glucose) from the blood into the muscles and fat cells for storage.
(Note: Without the right levels of insulin, your body can’t fully absorb the nutrients you take in (like carbs, amino acids, and triglycerides). Your cells won’t function like they should. This leads to extreme weakness, abdominal pain, nausea, and irritability…)
But once your muscles and liver are full of glucose, your body takes the glucose and stores it as fat.
So how do you get the right amounts of insulin so that you can absorb the nutrients you need, but avoid converting any into unnecessary fat?
You eat more carbs when your body is most sensitive to insulin.
Now, for the average person, yes we are slightly more insulin sensitive in the morning.
But for those of us who strength train, train with intervals intensely (with weights or otherwise), or do moderate to high intensity long duration cardio, our muscles are more sensitive to insulin for 48-72 hours AFTER working out.
And we are far far better at storing GLUCOSE for FUEL in our muscles (and not FAT) in the two hours or so immediately post workout.
Which means that it’s more important to get carbs AFTER your workout.
If in doubt, and you are looking to increase your carbohydrate intake because you are:
1. Training in a manner that utilizes a lot of muscle glycogen, frequently
2. Sleeping well
3. Relatively lean and healthy
Then the “anabolic window” in the two hours post workout is the best, safest time to consume the bulk of your daily carbohydrate intake.
Now, there’s another specific way to manage carbs to give your body the best chance for fat loss and muscle gain.
It’s known as carb backloading.
You see, when you ingest carbs, they release dozens of hormones. And a lot of these hormones play a role in growth and fat storage.
But if these hormones are released at the wrong time, they can throw your body out of whack and lead to fat gain.
So how can carb backloading help?
Carb backloading helps your body release the hormones at the right time, so you can maximize the positives of eating carbs, and minimize the negatives such as fat gain.
How does carb backloading it work?
Carb backloading breaks the day into two parts: before working out and after working out.
Pre-workout should be ULTRA low carb.
I’m talking less than 30 grams of carbs before hitting the gym or training session.
Then post workout should be when you replenish with protein and carbs - fill the later part of your day with meals comprised of protein, carbs and fat.
When you fuel your body with the right amount of carbs, your muscles and CNS (central nervous system) can recover from an intense training session…
IMPORTANT: This does NOT mean you should go around eating junk food to get carbs. Instead, stick to nutrient dense quality foods like sweet potatoes,(tubers of all kinds) green plantains, fruits and starchy vegetables…
When done right, it’s a great strategy for burning fat and aiding in muscle gain.
It can be particularly effective when you train in the late afternoon/early evening, and then consume your carbohydrates both post workout, and later in the day, when you can ride that sleepy feeling after one (or multiple) post workout big carbohydrate meals…… straight to sleep.
However the golden rule for those in doubt would be to stick to the two-hour anabolic window post workout.
But it’s not the only strategy out there…
In the next post, I’ll share with you yet another way you accelerate your fat loss… .
(HINT: It also involves eating more carbs)
Yours in Health,
Wade Baskin, PT, DPT, Cert. SMT, Cert. DN, RRT
Doctor of Physical Therapy
PS: For those of you eating like humans and following a Paleo-like or slow-carb-like dietary approach, yes you can follow this guideline without disruption.
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