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CARBS: The Anabolic Nutrient


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.

Basic “Carboscience”
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.

“Carbotypes”
Monosaccharides
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.

Disaccharides
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.

Polysaccharides
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
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.

Carb Cycling
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.


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Health Benefits of Dates


Dates

Dates are free from cholesterol, contain very low levels of fat and are low in calories. Dates are rich in several vitamins and minerals. These include Vitamin B1, B2, B3 and B5 along with Vitamin A and C. These delicious fruits also contain oil, calcium, sulfur, iron, potassium, phosphorous, manganese, copper and magnesium, which are all beneficial for health. Some health specialists have further gone on to state that eating one date per day is necessary for a balanced and healthy diet. Dates are also a rich source of protein and contain various types of amino acids. Dates contain insoluble and soluble fibres, which helps the digestive system. Dates are very good energy boosters as they contain natural sugars such as glucose, sucrose and fructose. Dates also have fluorine that slows down the process of tooth decay

Bone Health and Strength
The significant amount of minerals found in dates make it a super food for strengthening bones and fighting off painful diseases like osteoporosis. Dates contain selenium, manganese, copper and magnesium, all of which are integral to healthy bone development and strength, particularly as people begin to age and their bones gradually weaken.

Constipation
Dates are often categorised as a laxative food. This is why dates are so frequently eaten by people suffering from constipation. Dates have high levels of soluble fibre, which is essential in promoting healthy bowel movements and the comfortable passage of food through the intestinal tract, which can relieve symptoms of constipation.

Intestinal Disorders
The nicotine content in dates is thought to be beneficial for curing many kinds of intestinal disorders. Continuous intake of dates helps to inhibit growth of the pathological organism, which therefore help stimulate the growth of friendly bacteria in the intestines. In terms of digestive issues, dates contain those insoluble and soluble fibres, as well as many beneficial amino acids which can stimulate the digestion of food and make it more efficient, meaning that more nutrients will be absorbed by the digestive tract and enter your body for proper usage.

Anemia
Dates have a high mineral content, which is beneficial for many different health conditions, but their impressive levels of iron make them a perfect dietary supplement for people suffering from anemia. The high level of iron balances out the inherent lack of iron in anemic patients, increasing energy and strength while decreasing feelings of fatigue and sluggishness.

Allergies
One of the most interesting facets of dates is the presence of sulphur in them. This is not a very common element to find in foods, but it does have a worthwhile amount of health benefit, including the reduction of allergic reactions and seasonal allergies. According to a study done in 2002, organic sulphur compounds can have a positive impact on the amount of suffering people experience from SAR (Seasonal Allergic Rhinitis). Dates are a great way to somewhat stem the effects of those seasonal allergies through its contributions of sulphur to the diet.

Weight Gain
Dates should be included as part of a healthy diet. They consist of sugar, proteins and many essential vitamins. If dates are consumed with cucumber paste, you can also keep your weight at a normal, balanced level, rather than over-slimming. One kilogram of dates contains almost 3,000 calories, and the calories in dates are sufficient to meet the daily requirements for a human body. Of course, that does not mean you should just eats dates throughout the day. If your are thin and slim and want to increase your weight, or if your are trying build your muscles or increase mass size, or your have become weak due to a serious medical problem – you need to eat dates.

Energy Booster
Dates are high in natural sugars like glucose, fructose and sucrose. Therefore, they are a perfect snack for an immediate burst of energy. Many people around the world use dates for a quick afternoon snack when they are feeling lethargic or sluggish.

Nervous System Health
The vitamins present in dates make it an ideal boost to nervous system health and functionality. Potassium is one of the prime ingredients in promoting a healthy and responsive nervous system, and it also improves the speed and alertness of brain activity. Therefore, dates are a wonderful food source for people as they begin to age and their nervous system becomes sluggish or unsupported, as well as for people who want to keep their mind sharp.

Healthy Heart
Dates are quite helpful in keeping your heart healthy. When they are soaked for the night, crushed in the morning and then consumed, they have shown to have a positive effect on weak hearts. Dates are also a rich source of potassium, which studies have shown to reduce the risk of stroke and other heart related diseases. Furthermore, they are suggested as a healthy and delicious way to reduce the levels of LDL cholesterol¬ in the body, which is a major contributing factor for heart attacks, heart disease and stroke. Therefore, when taken twice a week, dates can seriously improve the overall health of the heart.

Sexual Weakness
Studies have shown that dates are even beneficial for increasing sexual stamina. Soak a handful of dates in fresh goat’s milk over night, and then grind them in the same milk with a mixture of cardamom powder and honey. This mixture becomes a very useful tonic for increasing sexual endurance and reducing sterility caused by various sexual disorders. The science behind this phenomenon is largely due to traditional usage which stimulated formal research. In 2006, Bahmanpour studied the effects of date palms and their oil on sexual functioning and found that the high levels of estradiol and flavonoid components of dates are what increase sperm count and motility, as well as promoting increased testes size and weight. So, if you are looking for a masculine boost, eat some dates, because they are a great natural aphrodisiac.

Night Blindness
The benefits of dates are extensive, and are commonly employed to fight off various conditions affecting the ear, nose, and throat. When the leaves of the date palm are ground into a paste and rubbed on and around the eyes, or when dates are ingested orally, it has been shown to reduce the frequency of night blindness, and this solution is commonly used in rural areas where dates grow as an alternative medicine.

Intoxication
Dates are commonly used as a remedy for alcoholic intoxication. Dates provide quick relief and have a sobering effect in case you feel as though have consumed an uncomfortable amount of alcohol. They can also be used the following morning to prevent severe hangovers. Again, they should be rubbed and soaked overnight for the best results.

Diarrhea
Ripe dates contain potassium, which is known as an effective way of controlling diarrhea. They are also easy to digest, which further helps alleviate the unpredictable nature of chronic diarrhea. The soluble fibre in dates can also help relieve diarrhea, by providing bulk to the bowel movements and promoting normal, healthy functioning of the excretory system.

Abdominal Cancer
Research has pointed towards dates being a legitimate way to reduce the risk and impact of abdominal cancer. They work as a useful tonic for all age groups, and in some cases, they work better than traditional medicines, and are natural, so they don’t have any negative side effects on the human body. They can be quickly and easily digested for a quick boost of energy.

Although dates carry tremendous nutritional values, great care should be taken in their selection because their surface is very sticky, which often attracts various impurities. Therefore, you should only consume dates that are processed and packaged properly. Also, make sure to wash them thoroughly before you eat them, as this will help remove the impurities present on the surface. The best thing is that it does not have any side effect on the body and is completely natural as well as it works better than medicine.