These tips will help you understand and utilise carbs in an intelligent and scientific way. Described by Dr Mike Israteal from RP Strength, they demystify the falsities that surround this macronutrient in an easy to understand format.
The 5 Rules of Carbs
1. They help with energy for work and fitness, mental ability, recovery, sleep and muscle growth.
- But you do not have to eat a lot of them if you do not want to.
2. Pair your carbs to calorie and activity levels
- Protein and fat take up most calories, which equals fewer calories.
- When activity levels climb, levels of carb intake should rise as well.
3. For most meals, choose mostly veggie, fruit, and whole grain carbs.
- These are the healthiest and will fit you up.
4. If you need to raise your carb intake by a lot (but eating is tough), reduce fibre/increase processing.
- White rice over brown rice, cream of rice over whole grain rice, etc
5. Sugar is fine
- So long as most of your carbs come from higher-fiber sources (from fruit, veggies and whole grains)
- The more active you are, the more OK it is to take in lots of sugars
Check out the video below where Dr Mike explains each point in greater detail.
How do Carbohydrates Help with Muscle Growth?
Carbohydrates play a crucial role in supporting muscle growth and overall athletic performance.
Here’s how they help:
Energy Source: Carbohydrates are the body’s primary source of energy. During physical activity, your muscles rely on glycogen, which is the stored form of carbohydrates in the body, to provide the energy needed for muscle contractions. When you consume carbohydrates, they are broken down into glucose, which is used to replenish glycogen stores and provide the energy required for workouts and other physical activities.
Glycogen Storage: Muscle glycogen, in particular, is essential for sustained, high-intensity exercise. Carbohydrate consumption ensures that your muscle glycogen stores are replenished after exercise, which, in turn, helps you maintain your strength and endurance during subsequent workouts.
Protein Sparing: Consuming an adequate amount of carbohydrates can spare protein for its primary role in muscle repair and growth. When you don’t get enough carbohydrates, your body may resort to breaking down muscle tissue for energy, which can hinder muscle growth and recovery.
Insulin Release: Carbohydrates, especially simple carbohydrates like glucose, can stimulate insulin release. Insulin is an anabolic hormone that helps transport nutrients, including glucose and amino acids, into muscle cells. This promotes muscle protein synthesis, aiding in muscle repair and growth.
Hormone Regulation: Carbohydrates can help regulate hormone levels such as cortisol, which is a catabolic hormone that can break down muscle tissue. Adequate carbohydrate intake can help keep cortisol levels in check.
Recovery: After intense workouts, consuming carbohydrates can help facilitate post-exercise recovery. They help replenish glycogen stores, reduce muscle soreness, and provide the energy needed to recover and prepare for the next training session.
It’s important to note that the type and timing of carbohydrate consumption can also impact their effectiveness in promoting muscle growth. Complex carbohydrates (e.g., whole grains, fruits, vegetables) and slower-digesting carbohydrates are generally preferable for sustained energy and muscle recovery. Timing carbohydrate intake around workouts can also optimize their effects on muscle growth and recovery.
Ultimately, a balanced diet that includes an appropriate amount of carbohydrates, along with protein and fats, is essential for supporting muscle growth and overall athletic performance. Individual carbohydrate needs can vary based on factors such as activity level, body composition goals, and metabolism, so it’s a good idea to consult with a nutritionist or dietitian to develop a personalized nutrition plan.
How Do Carbohydrates Provide the Human Body with Energy?
Carbohydrates provide the human body with energy by serving as a primary source of readily available fuel. Here’s how it works:
Digestion: When you consume carbohydrates in the form of food, they are broken down during the digestive process into their simplest form: glucose. Digestive enzymes in the mouth, stomach, and small intestine work to break down complex carbohydrates (starches and sugars) into glucose molecules.
Absorption: Once carbohydrates are broken down into glucose, they are absorbed through the lining of the small intestine and enter the bloodstream. This glucose in the bloodstream is often referred to as blood sugar.
Transport: Glucose is transported via the bloodstream to cells throughout the body. This is where the energy production process takes place.
Energy Production: Inside the cells, glucose is utilized in a series of chemical reactions known as cellular respiration. During this process, glucose is combined with oxygen to produce energy in the form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP is the primary energy currency of the body and is used to power various cellular functions, including muscle contractions, nerve impulses, and metabolic processes.
Storage: The body can store excess glucose in the form of glycogen, primarily in the liver and muscles. This glycogen serves as a readily accessible energy reserve. When energy demands increase, such as during physical activity, the body can quickly break down glycogen into glucose and use it for energy.
It’s worth noting that not all carbohydrates are created equal. Carbohydrates can be classified into two main categories: simple and complex carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates, like those found in sugary foods and beverages, are quickly digested and can lead to rapid spikes and crashes in blood sugar levels. Complex carbohydrates, on the other hand, are found in foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes. They contain longer chains of glucose molecules and are digested more slowly, providing a steady and sustained source of energy.
The body’s ability to use carbohydrates for energy is highly efficient, making them a crucial macronutrient in the human diet. The amount of carbohydrates needed varies from person to person based on factors such as activity level, age, and overall health, but they are a fundamental component of a balanced diet and are essential for maintaining energy levels and overall bodily function.
What are Wholegrain Carbohydrates?
Whole-grain carbohydrates are a type of carbohydrate derived from whole grains, which are unprocessed or minimally processed grains that contain all parts of the grain seed: the bran, germ, and endosperm. These grains are more nutritious and provide a range of health benefits compared to refined grains, which have had the bran and germ removed during processing.
Here are some examples of common whole grains and whole-grain products:
- Whole Wheat: Whole wheat products are made from the entire wheat kernel. This includes whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta, and whole wheat flour.
- Brown Rice: Brown rice retains the bran and germ layers, making it a whole grain, whereas white rice has had these nutritious layers removed.
- Oats: Whole oats, such as steel-cut or old-fashioned oats, are considered whole grains and are often used to make oatmeal or included in various baked goods.
- Quinoa: Quinoa is a pseudo-grain (not a true cereal grain) but is nutritionally similar to whole grains. It is a complete protein source and rich in fiber.
- Barley: Whole barley is used in dishes like barley soup and can also be used as a whole grain side dish.
- Whole Grain Cereals: Some breakfast cereals are made from whole grains and are good sources of fiber and essential nutrients.
Whole grains are rich in essential nutrients and fiber, providing several health benefits:
Fiber: Whole grains are an excellent source of dietary fiber, which helps maintain digestive health, prevents constipation, and may lower the risk of certain diseases, such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Nutrients: Whole grains contain a wide range of vitamins and minerals, including B vitamins (e.g., folate, niacin, and riboflavin), iron, magnesium, and selenium.
Antioxidants: Whole grains are often rich in antioxidants, which can help protect the body from oxidative stress and reduce the risk of chronic diseases.
Weight Management: The fiber in whole grains can promote a feeling of fullness, making it easier to control appetite and maintain a healthy weight.
Reduced Risk of Chronic Diseases: A diet rich in whole grains is associated with a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer.
When selecting whole-grain products, look for labels that explicitly state “whole grain” or “100% whole wheat” to ensure you’re getting the full nutritional benefits.
It’s recommended to make whole grains a part of your balanced diet to reap their health advantages while reducing your intake of refined grains, which are often less nutritious.