Carbs are found in all foods except meat, including grains, fruits, vegetables and even dairy. Regardless of the source, after absorption, carbs exist in the body as glucose. Glucose is the body's first and often preferred energy source. When you consume more carbs, or energy, than your body needs, the excess glucose is stored in your liver and muscles as glycogen. To burn carbs you must use available glucose, and then deplete glycogen stores.
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Skip the Pre-workout Meal
When you exercise, your body uses available glucose to provide energy. If you have just eaten a meal or had a pre-workout drink, this is first used to fuel your body. If you want to burn the carbs already stored in your body, do not take in excess carbs before or during your workout. Avoiding carbs pre-exercise may reduce the level you are able to perform at and may cause you to become tired sooner, but if you keep providing fuel for your body, your body will never use the fuel it has stored.
Once available glucose is used, your body will convert stored glucose, called glycogen, back into its useable form. How soon this occurs depends on your exercise intensity. High intensity exercise, such as intervals, burn stored carbs sooner. To perform intervals warm-up on your preferred cardio machine, or by jogging outdoors. Then sprint, or pedal, or row, as fast as you can for 30 seconds. Follow this with two minutes of active rest at warm-up speed. Repeat this cycle eight times for a short, carb-burning workout. Other options for intense cardio include group fitness classes like Zumba or cycling classes focusing on sprints or hills.
Resistance training, specifically circuit training, is a form of anaerobic exercise designed to use up glucose and deplete glycogen stores. During anaerobic exercise, a process called glycolysis uses glucose to produce energy. To use this energy mechanism perform a circuit consisting of one exercise for each muscle group -- chest, back, shoulders, biceps, triceps and legs. Do 20 repetitions of each exercise, performing one right after the other with no rest in-between. When you complete one circuit, rest for two minutes. Repeat the entire circuit once or twice more.
Carbs are necessary; the brain prefers glucose to other forms of energy. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services suggests you consume 45 to 65 percent of your calories through carbs, or 130 g per day. A diet with fewer carbs than this is unhealthy -- and not advantageous for weight loss. A low carb diet may lead to ketosis, a state your body may enter if forced to create energy from sources other than glucose. Ketosis can cause dehydration and blood related issues. Without carbs, the body breaks down proteins, found in muscle, for energy. Muscles, or lean body mass, help burn fat through creating an elevated metabolic rate. The body also requires a certain amount of carbs in order to process the breakdown of fat.
- Nutrition: Paul Insel, Don Ross, Kimberley McMahon & Melissa Bernstein
- Essentials for Personal Fitness Training, 4th Edition; National Academy of Sports Medicine
- Cleveland Clinic Competitive Edge: Going the Distance with Energy Gels
- US Dept of Health & Human Services: Dietary Guidelines for Americans
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Weight Management Position Statement