Carbohydrates ARE an important part of the muscle building diet. Some trainers get it into their heads that the only macronutrient responsible for muscle growth is protein.
Protein may be the macronutrient primarily responsible for the repair and rebuilding of muscle tissue BUT it can only accomplish these tasks when its supporting cast of nutrients is present in the diet.
Carbohydrates are your body’s preferred energy source.
The body stores carbs as glycogen in your liver and in your muscle tissues. When it needs energy, after depleting its stored supply of ATP, the body initiates glycolysis. Glycolysis is the process of converting carbs and sugar into ATP and ultimately energy.
If the body is provided insufficient carbs, it can and will convert protein into a carbohydrate energy source. This process, known as gluconeogenesis, is not a positive for the muscle building process. It is energy intensive and inefficient, sacrificing the energy and nutrients needed for muscle growth.
Carbohydrates Role in The Muscle Building Diet
Only through a balanced diet with sufficient carbohydrate intake can the body reach its fullest muscle building potential.
Carbs, like protein, contain 4 calories per gram. They should represent 30-60 percent of the muscle building diet.
But, in order to use carbs to effectively as a food to gain weight, to help you build muscle and not increase your fat gains, it is critical to understand the different types of carbs. When you consume carbohydrates and what types you consume will help dictate how they are used by the body.
The Three Main Types of Carbs…
High Fiber Carbs
(1/2 cup = 9 grams fiber)
(1/2 cup = 5 gr. fiber)
(1/2 cup = 4 grams fiber)
1. Sugars (Simple Carbs) – These carbs provide us with immediate energy, quickly entering the blood and providing a sharp insulin spike.
Simple carbs have a short shelf life in the body. If they are not quickly used for energy they are likely to be stored as fat tissue.
Examples of simple carbs are fruits, juices and basically anything with sugar.
On the muscle building diet, it is a good idea to generally limit your intake of the simple carbs.
However, there are times when they can be beneficial. The insulin spike created by simple carbs can be effectively used to deliver nutrients to the muscles at the times they most need it. These times include your first meal of the day and pre and post-workout nutrition.
Soda pop, candy and white flour (white bread) sources are almost always bad food choices. These are empty, valueless calories and should be avoided as much as possible.
2. Starches (complex carbs) – Complex carbs actually contain more sugars (a longer chain of sugars) than simple carbs but provide a slower release into the blood and therefore have a longer “shelf life.”
This shelf life is extremely important, giving you a longer window to utilize them as energy before they can start the process of being stored as fat.
3. Dietary Fiber – Fiber is a portion of plant food that cannot be digested by enzymes in the intestinal tract. Because it is not digested, it has no calories. It does, however, play an important role in the body – it assists the body in removing waste.
Because high-fiber fruits and vegetables are not calorie dense, they don’t play a major role in the weight gain diet. You do, however, need fiber in your diet. The high-protein, high-calorie diet can present constipation problems for some.
The food you eat to gain weight, like all food, should pass through your body in 24 hours. If you are not regular, increase fiber intake AND insure your water intake is adequate.
Don’t overdo it with fiber. Too much fiber can block the digestion of the calorie-producing macronutrients. A good goal is to aim for 10 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories consumed.
Supplementing For Carbs…
Getting enough fiber in your diet can sometimes be a challenge and supplementing can present a better option than the alternative.
Generally, it isn’t necessary to supplement specifically for carbohydrate calories. Food sources containing quality carbs are varied and plentiful. The average person won’t have trouble finding sources.
Quality meal replacements and weight gainers contain balanced meals which provide good carb mixtures.
What About The Glycemic Index?
The Glycemic Index (GI) is a measure of the after-meal response foods have on blood sugar levels. It can be a valuable tool for determining precisely which carbs have the ability to sharply influence insulin levels.
To learn more about the Glycemic Index and its limitations, check out this article – The Glycemic Index, Insulin and Bodybuilding.
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