Staying on a diet too long tends to slow down your metabolism. Cycling your calories or having planned cheat meals are great way to kick-start your metabolism and give your body some nutrients that might be missing from the daily diet. It also gives the mind a break from the rigours of a precontest diet. But binge eating makes it very difficult to get in all the nutrients you need to support muscle retention and fat loss, because such large quantities of fat and sugar will make eating multiple meals per day very difficult.
Carbohydrates can help you pack on muscle or body-fat depending on when, what and how much you eat. Here is what carbophobes and carboholics need to know about this important macronutrient for optimal physical gains.
Ask 10 bodybuilders about the importance of protein for muscle building and you will get clear support. Ask the same group about the value of carbohydrates and you will likely get 10 different answers. Among the macronutrients, no other has faced more scrutiny than carbohydrates. In fact, over the years nutritionists and diet specialists have spoken out of both sides of their mouths about carbs, claiming they are everything from beneficial (eg give you energy) to evil (eg make you fat) – a debate that leaves most of us confused about where carbs fit into a bodybuilding diet.
There are several reasons for the confusion and contradictory advice. First and foremost, not all carbohydrate sources are created equal, and different forms of carbs cause several different reactions in the body. Second, research is only just starting to unravel the benefits and caveats of carbohydrate ingestion in its many different forms. As a serious bodybuilder, you understand how critical it is to find the right balance of protein, fats and carbohydrates in your nutrition plan. This post will aim to remove some of the question marks surrounding carbs with a comprehensive overview of what, when and how to successfully include carbohydrates in your diet and supplement regimen, both to build muscle and lose body-fat.
Carbohydrates are so named because they are made up of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms (or hydrated carbon). These compounds serve many functional roles in the body beyond food energy. For example, ribose sugar comprises the backbone for the genetic RNA and is also important in the formation of many co-enzymes. This post will focus on specifically on carbohydrates as food or supplement sources for bodybuilders.
For a fast-acting source of energy, carbohydrates trump both fat and protein because sugars are more easily and readily metabolised than other macronutrients. The amount, type and rate of digestion of different carb sources dictate the level of blood glucose and amount of insulin released by the pancreas. Insulin is a hormone that delivers excess blood glucose to be stored in muscle cells and liver as glycogen. Once glycogen levels are topped up, the remaining blood glucose is converted to fat and stored in fat cells. The fact that insulin is integral to driving nutrients into skeletal muscle makes it one of the most potent anabolic agents and the focus of many research studies in exercise science. Insulin sensitivity (the body’s ability to use insulin) greatly increases in trained individuals, especially right after training. In contrast, insulin sensitivity declines in the evening.
Getting past all the science, the main point to deduce is that depending on the state of nutrition and timing of intake, high blood sugar and insulin levels could lead to either desirable or undesirable outcomes. Ideally you want to spike blood sugar and insulin levels at appropriate times to take advantage of energy storage and anabolic effects while avoiding fat storage.
These are the simplest class of carbohydrates, as they can not be hydrolysed any further to form a simpler sugar. Simple car sources taste sweet and include glucose (dextrose) and fructose (fruit sugar). Glucose is absorbed high in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and thus elevates blood sugar and insulin rapidly and greater than any other carbohydrate form. Fructose, on the other hand, digests low in the GI tract, has a relatively minor impact on blood sugar levels and is considered a slow carbohydrate.
These sugars are formed by the chemical combination of two monosaccharides. They also taste sweet and have a relatively fast absorption rate. The three common disaccharides include lactose (glucose-galactose or milk sugar), sucrose (glucose-fructose) and maltose (glucose-glucose). Maltose elevates blood sugar very rapidly (in fact, it does so faster than glucose) and sucrose only moderately increases blood sugar, whereas lactose digests slowly and has a small impact on blood sugar.
These are carbohydrates formed by bonding several chains of monosaccharides and or disaccharides. This form is commonly known as complex carbohydrates and includes starch, cellulose and glycogen. Starches are made up of multiple glucose units bonded together and are “plant sugars” produced by all green plants as an energy source. Common sources of starch are potatoes, wheat, corn and rice. Cellulose forms the structural components in plants and is relatively indigestible in humans – fibre is a form of cellulose. Most starches are considered medium-to-slow-digesting, however, exceptions exist, one which is waxy maize. The reason waxy maize absorbs so quickly is that it is a modified high-molecular-weight cornstarch that has los osmolality, which enables it to bypass the stomach a d het absorbed in the small intestines (causing a rapid rise in blood glucose).
The Glycemic Index
A common misconception is that all simple carbohydrates are fast sugars and all complex carbohydrates are slow sugars. This is definitely not the case. In fact, some complex carbohydrates (like maltodextrin) raise blood sugar and insulin levels rapidly, whereas a simple sugar like fructose has minimal impact on blood glucose. The variation is exactly why the glycemic index was created – to help you understand how different carbohydrate sources impact blood sugar. Using this tool is quite simple – all carbohydrate foods are ranked on a scale relative to glucose (a fast sugar, rated 100). Anything lower than 100 impacts blood sugar less than glucose and anything higher impacts it to a greater degree. One important point to note is that fats, fibre and, in some cases, proteins can significantly slow the speed at which fast (high-glycemic index) carbs elevate blood glucose. Keep this in mind when employing the strategies outlined next.
Carbohydrates and Bodybuilding
Carb-Based Muscle-Building Strategy
There is an abundance of scientific research supporting carbohydrate supplementation for muscle building. After exercise, muscle glycogen stores are depleted and insulin sensitivity is greatly increased, thus proving the perfect opportunity to spike by ingesting fast carbohydrates like dextrose, maltodextrin or waxy maize. Not only does the boost in insulin increase glycogen repletion, but it also serves to carry amino acids and nutrients into damaged muscle cells. Several studies indicate that post-training carbohydrate and protein supplements boost the anabolic response, augment recovery and promote increased gains in lean mass.
To take advantage of these muscle-building benefits, you should drink a post-workout shake containing a 2:1 ratio of high-glycemic index (fast) carbohydrates and fast-absorbing protein. The best combination is dextrose or maltodextrin and whey protein hydrolysate or isolate. Individuals who are sensitive to dextrose or maltodextrin can use waxy maize as an alternate fast-carb source. If you opt for waxy maize, just make sure to take it 15-20 minutes before your protein powder, as its impact on blood sugar may be slowed when taken at the same time as protein. In any case (depending on your body mass), you should strive to ingest approximately 60-100 grams of fast-absorbing carbs and 30-50 grams of fast-absorbing protein as soon as you finish working out. In general, you should aim to consume 1-1.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight per day (divided into six doses throughout the day, with one being 30 minutes prior to training and one being immediately after training).
Carb loading in bodybuilding is primarily used as a strategy to make muscles look fuller and skin appear tighter while onstage, during a photo shoot or whenever you want your physique looking its absolute best. There are numerous diet and workout strategies used for carb loading in bodybuilding, but the common goal among all approaches is to create an environment of glycogen super-compensation in skeletal muscle. This state is achieved by depleting glycogen stores by high-repetition, long-duration workouts for days under carbohydrate restriction. Once carbohydrate depletion is achieved, the diet switches to short-term, high-carbohydrate intake, during which the body restore glycogen in muscle to a higher level than before depletion. From a performance standpoint super-compensation provides more glycogen for subsequent exercise bouts, but (important for bodybuilding) it also results an increase in muscle cell volume (cell volumisation). This boost in cell volume occurs because each molecule of glycogen takes four molecules of water into the cell, resulting in less subcutaneous (under the skin) water and fuller-looking muscles, which give the body a leaner/harder appearance.
Here is an example of carb-loading strategy: For 3-5 days, deplete muscle glycogen stores by decreasing your carbohydrate intake by 50% or more (replace calories by increasing your fat intake) and train using full-body, high-rep workouts. After glycogen depletion, double your original carb intake for the three days preceding your competition, photo shoot or special event. Since each individual responds differently to carb loading, you should experiment with this strategy in the off season to know exactly how many days you need to deplete/super-compensate glycogen and look and feel your best.
This is a relatively new strategy that aims at maintaining or building lean mass while losing body-fat, as it combines the ababolism-boosting benefits of carbohydrate ingestion and the fat-burning advantages of low-carbohydrate diets. In a quest to get lean, many nutrition plans are centered on low-carb strategies to force the use of body-fat as fuel. However, there are theories suggesting that staying on a low-carb-diet for extended periods can lead to a decline in leptin levels. Leptin is a hormone that staves off hunger while simultaneously keeping your metabolic rate elevated. By going through alternating periods of low-carb and high-carb dieting, you can prevent drops in leptin levels, maintain hunger control and ensure your metabolism stays revved.
Carb cycling also provides a psychological advantage over strict low-carb diets. Knowing you will be able to eat carbs again in a few days makes getting through the low-carb days much more manageable. Another problem with strict low-carb diets is that they force you to limit fresh fruit and whole grains, two food sources that provide a number of health pulses like antioxidants and phytonutrients.
As you can see, carbs serve a major role in bodybuilding, from bulking up to the final touches in your contest preparation. The key to using them effectively is to have a basic understanding of how they affect the body based on ingestion timing, amount and impact on blood glucose.
I’m finding that, since I started training, I’m constantly hungry. Why is that? Should I worry?
That hunger is normal, and it is a good sign. Training boosts your metabolism, so when you start training, you should feel much hungrier than you did before. Feed that appetite. Your body needs the extra calories, and if you expect to grow, you should eat. Naturally, if you fulfil your cravings with foods high in salt, sugar or unhealthy fats, you are not doing yourself and favours. Eat clean foods and your starving muscles will respond with growth.
If your goal is to lose weight, here are some ways to help you avoid feeling hungry without over indulging and hopefully lose weight in the process.
Get lots of healthy, high-fibre foods in your diet. Most high-fibre foods require more chewing, which helps to satisfy hunger. High-fibre foods are usually bulky so they fill up your stomach faster and can also delay the time it takes your stomach to empty. Also, many high-fibre foods are low in calories, so you can satisfy your hunger with fewer calories. Whole grains, vegetables and fruits are great sources of fibre.
Spread out your calories by eating five to six small meals as opposed to three large ones during the day. If you wait too long for a large meal, you will be starving and tempted to overindulge by the time you eat. Eating more frequent, smaller meals helps keep you full and lets you stay in control.
Slow down when you are eating. It takes our body about 20 minutes to realise that it is full. If you eat quickly, you will consume extra calories while your body is figuring out whether it’s hungry. By the time your body realises it is full, you have already eaten more than you needed. If you eat slowly, your brain will start sending signals to stop eating at the right time. This is another reason to spread your calories out during the day – you won’t be starving when it is time to eat, so you will take your time eating.
Apricots are a small fruit with a velvety smooth skin. It has many health benefits due to its dense nutrition content.
The powerful antioxidants found in apricots help protect the body from free radical activity and damage to cells and DNA.
Though controversial, recent studies say that apricot seeds fight cancer due to their laetrile content. Laetrile, also known as Vitamin B17, is a controversial substance found in the seeds (also known as “pits” or “kernels”) of apricots. B17 has been noted for both its cancer-fighting potential as well as its supposed toxic effect on humans. The FDA banned laetrile in 1971 because it contains cyanide, a well known poison. However, recent studies have questioned its level of toxicity and many researchers claim that laetrile kills cancer cells without serious side effects. More research is still needed and individuals should consult a doctor before consuming apricot seeds.
High In Antioxidants
Apricots are a good source of vitamin C and a great source of vitamin A, providing 20% of one’s DV per serving.
The beta carotene found in apricots is now considered by many studies to play a positive role in cardiovascular health and heart disease prevention. They help prevent oxidation to LDL cholesterol and detoxify the blood.
High In Fibre
The high fibre content in apricots offers a variety of health benefits. It may be essential in colon health, is it great for digestion and helps balance the metabolism and maintain a healthy body weight.
Fruit like apricots, which are high in vitamin A and carotenoids, are now considered by many to help strengthen the eyes. One report stated that eating 3 or more servings of these fruits per day may help to prevent age related eye disease like macular degeneration.
AnemiaApricots contain a good amount of iron and copper, both of which may help in the formation of hemoglobin.
Rubbing apricot oil on the skin may help relieve the symptoms of conditions like eczema and scabies.
Apricots are a low calorie, nutrient rich food source that may be a great addition to any weight loss program. In addition, the fibre in apricots may help to maintain a healthy weight level.
Apricot is proved beneficial in treating asthma.
Apricot is rich in calcium which is important in formation and development of bone. So it is beneficial from any bone related problems.
Maintain Electrolyte Levels
Apricot contains potassium and sodium which are required to maintain electrolyte level in balance. Electrolyte is important for transportation of ions to every cells of body. Also it maintains fluid levels which are important for muscle contraction. So potassium and sodium plays an important role in maintaining electrolyte level.
Your thyroid is a set of multiple glands that work to keep your body running smoothly. They deliver messages (hormones) between themselves and other body parts so that all of those tiny cells are regulated and functioning at the proper levels. The hormones produced by the thyroid (T3 and T4) are essential for life and have many effects on metabolism, growth and development.
Thyroid health is important, because if your thyroid isn’t functioning properly it can lead to developmental defects or weight gain. Food is our medicine, so consuming the proper foods will help support your thyroid to ensure it remains in tip top shape. Carrots contain ample amounts of beta-carotene which is the precursor for vitamin A in the body. If you are low on vitamin A, your ability to produce thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) is limited. This vitamin is required by the body to convert T4 to T3.
B-complex vitamins are required for good thyroid function. Cucumbers contain B vitamins, so they are a good choice when trying to nourish the thyroid glands. Without B vitamins the thyroid and adrenal glands fail to secrete their hormones, and won’t be able to utilize its iodine raw material efficiently to make hormones. B vitamins are especially useful in individuals with an overactive thyroid.
– 1 cucumber
– 5 stalks celery
– 5 carrots
– 1 cup young thai coconut water
– 1 lemon
Juice the above ingredients, and add coconut water last.
Drink once every day.