Carbohydrates are always the misunderstood macro for most bodybuilders who know that you need carbs, but do not fully understand their role in muscle building. The truth about carbs is that what type of carbohydrates you eat, when you eat them and how much you eat can have a great impact on the muscle building process.
Most bodybuilders optimize their diet for muscle gain and fat loss. I am not a big believer in the bulking and cutting phases, especially bulking. To me, it sounds like a reason for people to justify eating junk food. I know the importance of a proper diet, but you can add mass while losing weight with sacrificing muscle gains in the process.
Of course, the inherit problem with carbohydrates is that they can easily turn into fat. This is why low-carb diets exist. For me, the only proper diet is a well-balanced diet, especially for one looking to add lean muscle mass.
Here are a few rules to follow about carbohydrates to avoid fat stores.
Eat Complex Carbohydrates
Complex carbohydrates are found in whole foods like brown rice, potatoes, whole grain cereal and oatmeal. Complex carbohydrates should make up the bulk of your daily calorie intake because they form muscle glycogen, the long lasting fuel that your body needs to train hard. Complex carbohydrates are slow burning which means that you get longer lasting energy. They also help keep your blood sugar levels remain constant, which reduces fat storage and fatigue and promotes the release of insulin. Insulin is the body’s natural anabolic hormone and is essential for muscle development.
Eat Carbohydrates Right After Training
I love a protein shake after lifting, but you need to understand the importance of carbohydrates after working out. When you train hard (and you had better be training hard), you are reducing your blood sugar level considerably. Eating carbohydrates directly after a training session provides your body with an insulin spike. This insulin spike puts your body into an anabolic (muscle building) state. If you do not get the right nutrients after training, it is possible that your body could enter a catabolic (muscle breakdown) state. This is why post workout nutrition is so important. A bad diet will end up making your body break down your muscles instead of building them.
Eat High Fiber Carbs
Most sources of complex carbohydrates are rich sources of fiber. Fiber helps to build muscle by making muscle tissue absorb amino acids faster and more efficiently.
Have Carbs and Protein Together
Mixing protein and carbohydrates together in the same meal helps you minimize the chance of the carbohydrates being stored as fat. Protein is harder for the body to process, so it increases your metabolism. Also, carbohydrates help transport the nutrients from protein to the muscle cells which aids in muscle growth.
Eat Small Amounts of Carbs More Often
You want a steady flow of insulin into your body and the best way to ensure that is to eat small amounts of carbohydrates more often. Eating a large amount of carbohydrates at once raises the chance that those carbs will be stored as fat. Also, your body does not need many carbohydrates at once. This tip goes along with the general tip of eating smaller meals more often.
I will admit that I hat this tip, but it really does help. I love fruit, especially during the warm summer months. Fruits are high is vitamins and many fruits are low in calories, but the majority of fruits contain fructose, which is a simple sugar. The body converts fructose into glycogen, which are used as building blocks for fat tissue.
Good, complex carbohydrates in small amounts spread out throughout the day along with lean protein is the best approach to adding lean muscle mass. Eating a nice carb-loaded meal about an hour before your workout provides you with the energy you need to get you through your workout while eating complex carbohydrates after your workout will give you the insulin spike that you are looking for to boost the muscle building process.