T Nation

Can Anyone Explain Carbs?

Can anyone explain the role of carbs in all these situations to me?

  1. Pre weights workout if working out right after getting up…are they for energy or what? Are they necessary? What type is best?

  2. Post weights…I know then it is to help shuttle nutrients into your muscles right? What about in the meal 1 hr later - would just fruit and veggies at that meal be fine?

  3. BIG QUESTION: pre workout cardio in the am - if it is 40 minutes of medium intensity and I’m trying to gain lean mass without much fat would just whey + BCAAs be best before or carbs and if so what type - fruit? And why? What is the philosophy?

I can see 2 things to think of…1 if the carbs aren’t there your body will burn more fats. Or 2 that when bulking the purpose of cardio is helping with nutrient partitioning so you should have the carbs in you before you start so they go to the muscles during cardio.

But then again, is it possible while bulking to have that hour or so in the am when you’re burning fat and then eat in surplus the rest of the day? Or is all this just crazy?

  1. Post cardio in the am (as in above situation) no carbs, fruit carbs, starchy carbs? Any why?

Thanks!

[quote]sarah1 wrote:
Can anyone explain the role of carbs in all these situations to me?

  1. Pre weights workout if working out right after getting up…are they for energy or what? Are they necessary? What type is best?[/quote]

Absolutely needed here. Your body is way depleted from the fast and you don`t want to be tearing down LBM. Current research is beginning to show that the Pre-WO meal is probably more important than the PWO meal. Something on the order of a low GI carb source makes the most sense. Oatmeal is a standard staple here. Stay away from fats Pre-WO.

PWO is one of the primary times where your metabolism is primed to make the most of what you throw at it. However, fruit and high GI carbs would be best suited for the PWO meal directly following the workout. OK to spike insulin at that point and the simple sugars in fruit are a good source for that. The meal 1-hour PWO is where you should be taking in the majority of carbs and a healthy dose of protein. (Again, this is a good time to stay away from fat.) Attempt to choose carb sources with a low to medium GI.

[quote]3. BIG QUESTION: pre workout cardio in the am - if it is 40 minutes of medium intensity and I’m trying to gain lean mass without much fat would just whey + BCAAs be best before or carbs and if so what type - fruit? And why? What is the philosophy?

I can see 2 things to think of…1 if the carbs aren’t there your body will burn more fats. Or 2 that when bulking the purpose of cardio is helping with nutrient partitioning so you should have the carbs in you before you start so they go to the muscles during cardio.

But then again, is it possible while bulking to have that hour or so in the am when you’re burning fat and then eat in surplus the rest of the day? Or is all this just crazy?[/quote]

If you are cutting, whey and/or BCAAs only make sense. If you are bulking, you could add in a low GI carb prior to the cardio. This is an area where you are probably going to need to find out what works best for your personal physiology through trial and error.

If lean bulking, I would suggest a low GI carb here. Again, my preference would be some amount of oatmeal.

Wow, thanks for the response!

I have a few follow ups. First off…I workout just 45 min or so after waking. I just don’t think I could stomach oatmeal or the like and plus even if I could, it probably wouldn’t be digested. So what would you suggest?

Second, today I ended up thowing in some cardio in the middle of the day after I had eaten lunch since I felt guilty - I NEVER cheat, but I had a salad with a bit of ceasar dressing on the chicken and then afterward ate some of these sweet potatoe fries at my dorm.

I don’t know…I guess finally after about 2 months of never having anything unclean I wanted it. But then I went and I had INSANE energy for the cardio compared to when I go in the am after just whey or just whey and fruit. I was going WAY WAY faster. Do you think I should try to eat a lot before cardio and then nothing after?

Also, I’m surprised you say that the majority of the carbs should be in the meal 1 hr. post weights…I always thought if you were going to add some in they should be right after? So should I just stick with my 1 scoop of Surge after and add in say the extra 20-30 g. in the 1 hr. post meal for a high carb day?

Finally, one thing I didn’t ask was about carb cycling…should high carb days always fall on lifting days? I seem to have read a few different things…that if you have more carbs the previous day all spread out it’s better?

Thanks again!

While these little forum answers can be helpful, I would really recommend just reading a bunch of articles on this site. Check out the “Articles” section on the left and go to the nutrition category.

John Berardi should be your main man for the next couple of weeks.

Thanks. I have read a LOT of the articles…the problem is sort of info overload. That’s why I’m asking these things. There are so many philosphies out there and these specific things just seem to have contradictory answers at times from different people.

I know most agree on the nutrition around weights, but there’s so much controversy on the stuff around cardio. I wanted to know what people found to work.

Here’s something else. It’s bullshit that you can’t eat before cardio. If anyone ever says that, don’t believe it. They may say it if you’re trying to lose fat. However, if you’re trying to perform at your best, I think a 20g carb + 20g protein shake would be ideal pre-cardio.

Just don’t drink a lot of liquid, or it will be squishing around in your gut as you run.

[quote]sarah1 wrote:
I have a few follow ups. First off…I workout just 45 min or so after waking. I just don’t think I could stomach oatmeal or the like and plus even if I could, it probably wouldn’t be digested. So what would you suggest?[/quote]

Im still not entirely clear on your goals are other than trying to gain lean mass without much fat.` Given that, I would still suggest some amount of CHO & PRO due to the overnight fast.

If you can get something in first thing, 45 minutes should be sufficient to digest most of it. If you are not lactose intolerant, I`d suggest 8-16 oz fat-free milk plus some amount of whey.

Alternatively, a portion (1/4 to half) of a whole wheat bagel supplies a good amount of CHO in a dense space. And make sure that you get some amount of PRO, whey is a great choice here.

[quote]Second, today I ended up thowing in some cardio in the middle of the day after I had eaten lunch since I felt guilty - I NEVER cheat, but I had a salad with a bit of ceasar dressing on the chicken and then afterward ate some of these sweet potatoe fries at my dorm.

I don’t know…I guess finally after about 2 months of never having anything unclean I wanted it. [/quote]

Don`t be a slave to your diet, find something that you can live with long term. We all get cravings. Even on the diet Berardi used to reportedly get ~5% BF, he was eating a Blizzard from DQ every two weeks.

Your body needs some source of energy to burn during physical activity. Im more productive in the gym or at the track in the PM as opposed to the AM. I think this is partly due to the nutrients Ive taken in throughout the day. If you are eating fruit before AM cardio, you may be experiencing an insulin crash part way into your session.

The simple sugars in fruit will spike insulin pretty severely and then itll be gone... Thats why the preference is for a CHO that has a lower GI prior to WO. Also, I wouldnt recommend that you eat a lot` before cardio. But you certainly need something recently ingested for your body to make use of.

The meal directly following WO is to ward off catabolism. Thats why you want PRO because youre in a catabolic state from the stress of the WO. A CHO substrate is required to maximize the shuttling of the nutrients. A high GI CHO source to spike insulin is very useful at this point.

The meal ~1 hour later is to make the most of your metabolic state and fully replenish both liver and muscle glycogen. I can`t say the exact amount in grams for you because I know nothing about your physiology and this is where it turns from science to art (due to individual physiology.)

This all depends on what you mean by carb cycling. If you are not attempting to lose weight, then you should theoretically be able to handle more CHO on those days because you are expending more calories from your WO.

So, yes, you can eat more CHO on lifting days. If you are looking to carb cycle for weight reduction, I`d highly recommend a google search for Lyle McDonald, UD 2.0 and the Ultimate Diet.

Okay. That helps a lot. The only thing is I thought fruit was the lowest GI thing you could have. Like the strawberries I have with whey pre-workout are GI of 30 or so, whereas any grain is ~70 (oats or sweet potato). Yet I hear many people say fruits are sugars and don’t count as low GI carbs…so now I’m confused.

I would think milk+whey would have a huge insulin rush and leave me crashed more that fruit and whey? Or am I wrong?

Thanks!

[quote]sarah1 wrote:
Okay. That helps a lot. The only thing is I thought fruit was the lowest GI thing you could have. Like the strawberries I have with whey pre-workout are GI of 30 or so, whereas any grain is ~70 (oats or sweet potato). Yet I hear many people say fruits are sugars and don’t count as low GI carbs…so now I’m confused.

I would think milk+whey would have a huge insulin rush and leave me crashed more that fruit and whey? Or am I wrong?

Thanks!
[/quote]

Some fruits are higher on the GI than others. I’m pretty sure an Apple would be a lower GI food than Strawberries, as an example.

[quote]sarah1 wrote:
Okay. That helps a lot. The only thing is I thought fruit was the lowest GI thing you could have. Like the strawberries I have with whey pre-workout are GI of 30 or so, whereas any grain is ~70 (oats or sweet potato). Yet I hear many people say fruits are sugars and don’t count as low GI carbs…so now I’m confused. [/quote]
Unfortunately, no where did you previously delineate what type of fruit you were talking about so I had to guess. Strawberries are upper 30s, lower 40s on the GI. Bananas, on the other hand, are ~50 and watermelon is mid-70s. Grains are higher than some fruits on the GI, but because they are a complex CHO they will take longer to assimilate in the digestive tract. This is why whole grains are a good choice. Oatmeal has been a staple of the BB community for decades due to that fact.

By comparison, skim milk is in the low 30s on the GI. Milk’s sugar, lactose, is more slowly assimilated during digestion when compared to fructose, fruit’s primary sugar. Also, milk will add additional protein with a complete amino acid profile (which you’ll also be getting with the whey.)

Hmm. Great. Maybe I can try oatmeal. Two other grains I like although I tend to avoid since I don’t know if they are okay are LaTortilla Factory Low Carb Tortillas:

http://www.latortillafactory.com/jadworks/ltf/jwsuite.nsf/ViewSelection/26D37C24E4814A3B8825723B006711A5?Open&site=Home*ViewSelection=Products**dl

And these high fiber bars:

http://www.gnufoods.com/ourproducts/chocolatebrownie.cfm

Do you think either of these products would be nice and slow digesting with a low GI like oats or should I avoid them?

Thanks again for all the input!

[quote]sarah1 wrote:
Hmm. Great. Maybe I can try oatmeal. Two other grains I like although I tend to avoid since I don’t know if they are okay are LaTortilla Factory Low Carb Tortillas:

http://www.latortillafactory.com/jadworks/ltf/jwsuite.nsf/ViewSelection/26D37C24E4814A3B8825723B006711A5?Open&site=Home*ViewSelection=Products**dl [/quote]
You could certainly do worse than these. I can’t see the macro nutrient breakdown, but the ingredient list looks relatively innocuous. Flour is whole wheat. The oils are both relatively low in saturated fats and both are cold pressed - a good thing. HOWEVER, I would still shun fats, as much as possible, preceding and following a WO or cardio session.

Generally speaking, the smaller the number of ingredients listed (provided they are good ingredients to begin with), the better. For comparison, look at the ingredient list in oatmeal:
http://www.quakeroatmeal.com/qo_ourProducts/quakerOats/product.cfm?productid=3

[quote]And these high fiber bars:

http://www.gnufoods.com/ourproducts/chocolatebrownie.cfm

Do you think either of these products would be nice and slow digesting with a low GI like oats or should I avoid them?

Thanks again for all the input! [/quote]

Again, you could obviously do much worse than these. They are certainly attractive based on the fiber content. Try them and see what effect they have. Due to individual physiology only generalities can be made, different products affect individuals differently and this is where it becomes trial and error.