Four Factors to Consider When It Comes To Carbohydrate Intake
Here are some basic guidelines for Carb intake. All of these factors are based somewhere along a continuum, so for most accurate guidelines for you, you should speak to your coach.
When you train, you deplete your muscle stores of glycogen. Carbohydrates are used to replenish this. Think of it as wringing out a sponge of water. You only want to replenish what you used, as any excess will spill over (meaning fat storage). With this in mind, if you have a huge leg training session and put your body through a ton of volume and you leave the gym needing crutches – you’ve more than likely earned yourself some carbs! Arms training is going to deplete less glycogen from your body. The bigger the muscle groups that you are using, the more glycogen you deplete and carbs you can earn yourself.
This will predominantly come down to your body fat percentage, and your lean muscle mass. These are two factors which influence your insulin sensitivity. The leaner you are – the more insulin sensitive you are, meaning that you can have carbs more often.
The two best times for eating carbohydrates are post workout and before bed. These are the times that you are the most insulin sensitive. Carbs before bedtime have the added benefit of increasing levels of serotonin and GABA, helping you to get a good nights sleep.
Low glycemic index (GI) or “complex” carbs are where you should form the basis of your carbohydrate intake. Anything with a GI level of below 55 is considered low GI. This includes things like sweet potato, thin skinned berries, certain types of rice and pumpkin. These type of carbs will have a minimal effect on your blood sugar, due to the time it takes for your bodies enzymes to break them down. If your blood sugar levels stay steady, you will avoid insulin spikes. Rises in blood sugar cause a hormonal cascade.
As insulin spikes, cortisol levels are driven down. When you eat high GI foods, your body will often produce very high levels of insulin to combat sharp increases in blood sugar. To drive this down, your body produces extra cortisol, causing you to crash. However, high GI carbs can be great for lean and muscular individuals post workout, but you must be sure that you fit this criteria. Stay away from refined sugar, as it is able to enter the blood stream as glucose, leading to it being absorbed and stored immediately.
Finally, be mindful of inflammatory carbs. Try and determine which foods are best for you. Refined sugars, fizzy drinks are best to be avoided along with Gluten for a lot of people.