By John Krueger (About the Author)
Carbohydrates or the more commonly referred to term, ‘Carbs’, are one of the three major macronutrients within your body and dietary intake. The other two are Proteins and Fats (We will go over those in future articles). Very simply, carbs are your body’s source for energy. This is why contrary to popular belief your body needs carbs no matter what your fitness goal is. Yes it is possible to survive and function without them, but it is not ideal and will leave you very zombie like. For those of you who have ever competed, or ever tried or talked to anyone on a low carb diet you can vouch. Also contrary to popular belief, carbs do not make you fat. Yes, certain types of carbs can increase your waistline but that is more due to the fact the carb content is mostly made up of sugars (cookies, cakes, white breads, etc.). There are two types of carbohydrates, simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates are broken down in the body very quickly and in turn spike your insulin levels, which encourages the storage of body fat (What we all don’t want). Complex Carbohydrates are broken down at a significantly slower rate than simple carbs and do not have as much as an effect on insulin spikes, resulting in less body fat gain. Carbohydrates are also categorized by their insulin spiking abilities by what is called the “Glycemic Index”. Very simply, any food that is has a high score on the glycemic index is very fast digesting and will cause a significant spike on your insulin levels. On the reverse, foods with low to moderate scores will not spike your insulin or cause a very small spike. A simple google search for the glycemic index will list foods with high, low and moderate glycemic ratings; and you can also search foods directly for more help.
If your goal is to lose weight/body fat or to add size/muscle but minimizing fat gain, have no fear you can still eat your carbs. Just make sure that they come primarily from low glycemic index foods (IE complex carbs). Also, there is always a time and a place for high glycemic foods or simple carbs. Like I stated in the beginning your body breaks down carbs for fuel and energy, however if you are low on carbs (Example would be during a fasted morning workout or at any point where you consumed a low amount of carbs throughout the day) your body will start to break down fat and protein for energy instead. This becomes a problem when your body begins to catabolize (Eat away at itself), which usually results in your body breaking down muscle fibers and tissue for energy. If you want to consume, or are craving any type of simple carb; mid workout or immediately post work out is the best time for an insulin spike. The corresponding spike will result in a replenishing for your energy stores, which will help your body stop catabolizing if it got to that point, as well as provide the energy to power through the rest of your workout, and even refuel your body so that your post workout meal is primarily broken down and used to support the repairing of your body/muscles.