When to Eat Carbs: Timing Your Carbs So They Won’t Make You Fat
Jul 25th, 2012
Most people have been preconditioned to answer, “never”, when asked when to eat carbs and not gain fat.
Eliminating carbs from your diet altogether will enable you to cut fat, but there are several inherent problems with this approach: the onset of muscular atrophy, a notable decrease in strength and overall physical performance, declining energy levels, heightened risk of entering an over trained state, and reduced training intensity.
Abstaining from carbohydrates is an effective means of fat loss because diets that are low in carbohydrates keep insulin levels in check, preventing further increases in body fat, and also naturally contain fewer calories from the sheer absence of the nutrient that makes up a majority of the diets of most Americans.
Not eating carbs also keeps glucose levels in the blood from being elevated, which forces your body to burn greater amounts of fat when exercising, since its preferred primary source of energy (glucose) isn’t available.
I’ve followed low carb diets, and besides experiencing the problems associated with following a diet that includes little or no carbohydrates I alluded to above, I found it to be extremely difficult to remain diligent in my quest to shed fat by not eating carbs.
Actually, it wound up being downright impossible!
Simply put, it’s unrealistic to not eat carbs for any longer than a few weeks at a time. Some of my favorite foods contain carbohydrates and I just couldn’t see myself sustaining my dedication to a diet which completely prohibited me from eating them (even in moderation).
I’ve since educated myself and no longer have to worry about eating a piece of fruit, enjoying a baked potato, having a couple pieces of toast, or eating a side of rice or pasta with my steak.
What I’ve learned is that carbs are a healthy part of any diet and are absolutely essential for muscle growth and recovery. If you’re someone who holds to the notion that carbs are some kind of evil fat gaining nutrient, I want to set the record straight…
Eating carbs will not make you fat – eating carbs at the wrong times and/or in excess will make you fat.
When to Eat Carbs and Not Get Fat
When carbs are consumed they’re converted to sugar that is then transported into the bloodstream. At this point the sugar is in the form of glucose.
When the body detects a rise in blood sugar the pancreas releases insulin into the blood.
Insulin acts as a microscopic bulldozer, forcing the glucose out of the bloodstream and into the muscle, liver and fat cells. In order for the glucose in the blood to not end up adding to the fat storage on the body it must either be expended or stored in the muscle or liver tissues.
The muscle tissues in our body actually store sugar energy for the purpose of being used for unexpected and/or intense physical activity in the event that glucose levels aren’t adequate to fuel the activity, or if the level of intensity is too great for the body to rely on glucose alone for its high demand for immediate energy.
This sugar energy that’s stored in the body’s muscle tissue is a derivative of glucose, called glycogen.
A smaller amount of glycogen is also stored in the tissues of the liver as well.
At this point I’m sure you’re wondering what all this has to do with knowing when to eat carbs so they won’t cause you to gain fat.
Well, when timed correctly, the sugar produced from carbohydrate consumption will be used for fuel and to replenish the glycogen reserves in your muscle tissue, instead of going unused and being stored on your body in the form of fat.
The times when you can eat carbs and not worry about getting fat are:
- 30-90 minutes before training
- Up to 3 hours after completing your training
Carbs can be safely consumed before training because your body will use the energy they provide to fuel your workout, minimizing the risk of the energy going unused and being converted to fat.
After training your muscles’ glycogen reserves will have been depleted, so carbs consumed after your workouts will be mostly used to replenish your glycogen levels and won’t end up adding to your body fat levels.
Avoid Eating Carbs in Excess
Now comes the caveat…
Knowing when to eat carbs as I’ve explained above, while limiting carbohydrate consumption at other times throughout the day, is enough to have a significant impact on a person’s physique – even if no other dietary implements are applied.
That being said, if you continue to eat an excessive amount of carbs – even if they’re eaten before and after your training – you will put on additional body fat.
A good way to control your carb intake is to give yourself one allowance of carbs for training days and another for non-training days.
I recommend men to start with 150g of carbs on training days and less than 50g of carbs on non-training days (women should use 100g and 30g respectively).
Follow this allowance for a week. If your body fat hasn’t decreased, you’ll want to reduce your allowances and continue tracking your progress until you start consistently dropping fat.
Enjoy Knowing When to Eat Carbs
If you were previously convinced that carbs are the “evil” fat gaining nutrient, have been avoiding them at all cost and dealing with feelings of guilt every time you enjoy your favorite carb-laden foods, you’re now free to enjoy some of your favorite foods once again – without the fear of getting fat.
When I transformed my body from fat to ripped a few years back using this technique of timing my carbohydrate intake, it was astounding the number of people I encountered that just couldn’t believe I lost so much fat while still eating a considerable amount of carbohydrates on most days throughout the week.
It’s worth noting that I was also eating mostly processed carbohydrates, which undoubtedly hindered my progress.
Even with some poor dietary choices to contend with, the technique of knowing when to eat carbs was still powerful enough to enable me to get ripped without giving up my favorite carbohydrate-rich foods.
Never again fall for the notion that dramatic fat loss is impossible while eating carbs. As I hope I’ve convinced you, knowing when to eat carbs makes all the difference!
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