When Should I Eat Carbs
Many of you consistently hear that carbs have a negative impact on your results and then you find yourself asking: “When Should I Eat Carbs?” The good news is that while you don’t “need carbs”, they aren’t going to kill you or affect your results. That is, unless you aren’t getting the right carbs at the right time. Proper timing of carbs is pretty important and while what I have put together below may not be agreeable with everyone, it is what has worked for me in the past. I followed the suggestions detailed below while I was going through the Body Beast program and will continue to follow them until I hit a plateau, at which point, I will mix things up.
History of Carbs
Remember when you would hear about how you should load up on a high carb meal the night before a big athletic event or how they help maintained a healthy heart and contribute to weight loss? Those were the days. What happened? Two words; Akins Diet. This was a phenomena that spread like wild fire across the country and everyone was chowing down on bacon, two and three 1/2 lb hamburger patties without the bun, it was a bit crazy. But, it worked! A lot of people were losing weight with this diet.
However, the crazy-high protein and low carb Atkins diet was generally not considered a healthy solution for consistent, safe and lasting weight loss. It is still around today and I am sure that many people still follow the guidelines detailed within that program, but I think that most people saw it for what it was…a fad diet and went back to their high fat, high carb, no nutritional value diets.
So carbs have gone from GREAT, AWESOME, ESSENTIAL to BAD, TERRIBLE, NON-ESSENTIAL all in a matter 10-12 years. The carbohydrate gets a bad rap from those who aren’t aware or familiar with how they should be used and when you body needs them. To make it simple; I stand by this; the amount of carbs you should be consuming is directly related to how much your body is needing and using them…PERIOD! In essence, carbs are in direct proportion to your workouts.
When Should I Eat Carbs? – First, How About – What Carbs Should I Eat?
All carbs are not created equal. So when someone says; “Oh, look at the # of carbs in that!”, you have to take into consideration the type of carbs, not just to # on the label. All carbs are not created equal
3 Basic Types of Carbohydrates
1 – Simple – Candy, unnatural fruit juices, etc..
2 – Complex – Fruits, Veggies
3 – Processed – Bread, grain, pasta, etc.
4 Complex Types of Carbohydrates
Carbs, known as saccharides, are broken down into 4 different categories.
1 – Monosaccharides – simplest carbohydrates in that they cannot be broken down into smaller carbohydrates; e.g. (glucose) and fruit sugar (fructose)
2 – Disaccharides – this is two joined monosaccharides and these are the simplest polysaccharides; e.g. table sugar (sucrose) and milk sugar (lactose)
These first two make up the Simple Type of carbohydrate detailed above.
3 – Oligosaccharides – these contain a small number (typically 2 to 10) of component sugars or monosaccharides – fruits and veggies.
4 – Polysaccharides – larger, complex strain (more than 10) of monosaccharides – starches – potatoes, rice.
The last two make up the complex carbohydrates.
Got it – With Me So Far?
How does this tell me when should I eat carbs?
Carbs = Energy Given this equation, you should really only be taking in carbs when your body needs the energy! The means by which that energy is delivered and how it is used is based the type of carbohydrate you take in.
Simple carbs are going to have an immediate affect on you blood sugar levels. But this spike isn’t sustainable, it is short-lived and is burned pretty quickly. At the same time, simple carbs typically have little to no nutritional content/value associated with them. Since simple carbs are basically made up of just sugar or some form of it, you get nothing more than the sugar rush and unfortunately crash as a result.
This is not to say that ALL simple carbs are bad and not needed. There are some instances where a quick increase in blood sugar levels may be needed. For example, if you are like me an workout in the AM on an empty stomach, a little simple sugar before a workout can actually give you a little boost of energy to get going. But this also doesn’t mean you have full liberty to binge on candy or sweets.
Complex carbs on the other hand have a much higher nutritional content/value associated with them and consequently have less of an effect on your blood sugar levels. This is good! The energy that is delivered is consistent and slowly burned/used by your body. In this light complex carbs following a hard workout is ideal. You body NEEDS the energy and will burn through the energy provided and not store the excess as fat. The amount energy that you have expended with your workout is in correlation with your body telling you when should I eat carbs.
When Should I Eat Carbs Before/After My Workout?
Pre Workout – Yes – before an intense cardio session or prior to a heavy lifting routine.
Post Workout – YES!!! – regardless of the type of routine, your body needs the carb intake.
When Should I Eat Carbs Before Bed?
The answer to the question of; when should I eat carbs before bed, depends on your fitness goals! I try not to consume anything within the last 2-3 hours that I am awake in the evenings. Regardless of my current fitness goals.
If you are bulking, then adding some level of carbs before bed isn’t a bad idea. I would typically add some complex carb like oatmeal to my evening casein protein shake. Oatmeal is a good carb in this situation, since it had a relatively low calorie count, no sugar and a bit of fiber.
I would not suggest that you have any added carbs before bed if you are trying to lose weight or in a cutting phase.
Summary – When Should I Eat Carbs
How many carbs and when I should eat carbs are two pretty common questions and there is a lot of opinion on the correct answer. While I don’t suggest that my answer is the only one and right for everyone, it is one that I think simplifies the science behind what a carb is and how it affects your body. Once you know this piece of the puzzle, it is a lot easier to answer how you should/need to include carbs in your diet. I hope that this article has help clear up some of the carb confusion that many people tend to have surrounding when should I eat carbs.
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