Carbs are your Friend

Jeremy asks: I just started to add a whole wheat roll after I work out and I’m surprised at how good a response I’m getting. I’m becoming leaner, I think, by strategically adding carbs.  Is this true?

YES.

To get the “lean look,” include 1-2 servings carbohydrates in at least two of your meals per day (e.g., grains, bread, fruit, starchy vegetables like potatoes, legumes).  Here’s why:

Protein and carbohydrate work in a synergistic manner.  Carbs enhance protein’s ability to shuttle amino acids into muscles (meaning more growth).  Without enough carbs, the body has a tough time driving protein into the muscles for growth.  Without enough carbs, the body will begin to breakdown hard-earned muscle mass.

Consumption of carbohydrates will ensure a process called “protein-sparing.”  This means that instead of dietary protein being used for energy requirements, it will be used for muscle building. 

But, there’s a catch.  Jeremy is correct in asking about a “carb-adding strategy.”   Both the amount and the type of carb is important.

1. There’s a drastic difference between eating one whole-wheat roll versus nine.  Excess calories – in any form of macronutrient (carb, protein, fat) – will be stored as fat.

2. There’s a drastic difference between adding carb in the form of cookies and soda versus nutrient-dense foods.   Exercise will cause the body to produce free radicals in the muscles.  Exercising is damaging to the muscles (in a good way); but in order to prevent further damage, you want antioxidants.  Cookies and soda don’t have any antioxidants.  Instead, the concentrated form of sugar in cookies and soda allow the body to absorb sugar very quickly and raise blood sugar very high.  That cycle will not optimally replenish your glycogen stores (the immediate energy reserve we have in our muscles cells).  Plus, eating cookies and soda enhance harmful oxidative processes in the body.

3. The best strategy to replenish glycogen and “get leaner” is to consume at least 1-2 servings of natural carbohydrate sources per meal.   Some examples include fruit, bread, pasta, and starchy vegetables.

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