Many people think that cutting carbs is the fast way to weight loss and muscle definition.
There are popular low-carb or no-carb diets like the Atkins Diet that introduce low carbs to your eating regime. However, what you might not know, is that carbs are your friend when it comes to building muscle.
What carbs are used for when weight training
Some of the carbs you eat get stored in your muscles as glycogen. Which are your muscles’ main source of energy for lifting heavier weights, doing more reps and/or sets.
If you have a low carbohydrate diet, you may not have the energy you need to lift a certain weight, do as many reps and/or sets, which can mean that it’s harder to build muscle.
How many carbs should I eat when weight training?
If you are wanting to do more intense and longer workouts, you should think about increasing your carb intake the same way as you are with your workout. For example, if you are beginning to double the amount of exercises you do on your muscles, you should increase the amount of carbs in your diet.
During a single exercise session, actively exercised muscle tissue can use up to 60-70% of its stored glycogen (glucose). So, if you imagine your glycogen levels are like a battery on your phone, once there’s little glycogen left the muscle tissue will act very lethargically. This is one of the reasons you may feel tired after exercise – because your glycogen battery level is running low. It’s important to understand that your muscle tissue is as good as useless when its battery level is close to empty.
Even if you are looking to burn fat, you will still need a good level of carbs ion your diet, in order to burn fat healthily and sustainably. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that your total daily calories is made up of 45%-65% carbohydrates. So, if you eat an average of 2,000 calories a day, between 900 and 1,300 calories should be from carbohydrates. This translates to between 225 and 325 grams of carbs a day – but it is just one guideline. Ideally, speak to a specialist about nutrition (like me!) who can help tailor a plan for your body and your goals.
When is the best time to eat carbs when weight training?
Carbs in the morning
Carbs in the morning are definitely recommended, not only for muscle growth but to keep you going until your next meal. Going back to the glycogen battery level, you want to charge it up for your day. You will find carbs in cereal, bread, oats, protein shakes and bars. There are hundreds of options for your breakfast carb intake.
Carbs before exercise
You want to have a carb rich snack with protein before you exercise, once again because of that metaphorical glycogen battery in your body. You’ll be able to work out longer and may feel less tired after exercising. Eat a meal that will digest easily 30-60 minutes before a workout. For example: oatmeal, almonds, and a banana. You don’t want to eat something that has a lot of fat, because fat takes the longest to digest.
Carbs after exercise
It’s important to rest the muscle groups that you have worked on, but for them to grow, you also need to feed them. Carbs – carbs that are fast to digest – will to replenish glycogen levels, which you will need if you want your muscles to grow whilst they recover.
Examples of carbohydrates to eat whilst weight training
Complex carbohydrate examples:
Multi grain hot cereal
100% whole wheat bread
100% whole wheat pasta
Carbohydrate rich fruit examples:
Weight training and nutrition advice in Bermondsey
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