Controlling carbohydrate intake is a key factor of your diet whenever trying to cut body fat and maintain lean muscle mass. Consuming a low-carb diet does not mean eliminating all carbs, but rather controlling and consuming the right kinds of carbs at the right times. Simple carbs should be avoided most of the time, but if you are going to consume them, following your workout is the best time.
Carbohydrates are the main energy source used by the body and are found in a wide variety of foods, including grains, fruits, veggies, breads and sugar. Whenever you consume carbohydrates, the glucose found in the carbs is absorbed into the bloodstream and stored into the muscle as glycogen to be used for energy. Once glycogen stores become full, the glucose is stored as fat to be used for energy at a later time.
Types of Carbohydrates
The two different types of carbohydrates are the complex and simple carbs. Complex carbs are slow-digesting carbs that only slightly raise your blood glucose and insulin levels. These are the key to fat loss, notes Jim Stoppani, PhD., of “Muscle & Fitness Hers” magazine. Slow-digesting carbs include oatmeal, sweet potatoes, whole-grains, vegetables and some fruits such as berries, grapefruit and apples. Green vegetables are nonstarchy carbohydrates and do not contain a lot of calories. Therefore, they do not have a big impact on providing the body with energy. Vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, green beans and asparagus are also high in fiber and nutrients vital to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Simple carbs are fast-digesting carbohydrates that quickly raise your blood sugar. Simple carbohydrates are found in white breads and pastas, white potatoes, candy and some fruits, such as watermelon and bananas.
Your body does not necessarily need starchy carbohydrates to provide your body with energy because it can convert amino acids found in protein as well as fat into glucose for energy. However, that does not mean that carbohydrates are not important to include in your diet. Your body burns muscle glycogen during exercise. Following a workout, the body wants to replenish the lost muscle glycogen, which enhances its ability to metabolize carbohydrates, making immediately after working out the best time to eat simple carbohydrates, notes Derek Charlebois, author of “The Diet Solution.” Following your workout is the time to consume fast-digesting carbohydrates to help with muscle recovery.
Portion control and the types of carbohydrates you consume should be considered when consuming them after your workout on a cutting diet. Overconsuming simple carbs can still inhibit fat loss, even if consumed following a workout. Avoid consuming highly processed foods. Stick with natural forms of simple carbohydrates, such as fruits or white potatoes, that can also provide your body with other sources of nutrients and fiber.
- "The Diet Solution"; Derek Charlebois; 2010
- "Muscle & Fitness Hers" magazine; Nutrition 101; Jim Stoppani, PhD, Karla Dial, Allan Donnelly; July/August 2011