T Nation

Carb Amounts/Energy Levels


Currently I take in around 350g of carbs per day. Usually these are spread over 4 meals (~80 at breakfast, ~90 at lunch, ~30-40 preworkout, and the rest post workout)

My question is this.. Because insulin is released proportionate to the amount of carbs taken in.. Would it be more beneficial to energy levels throughout the day to spread my 350g over smaller meals? That way insulin is not being released so rapidly at one time.

And would this affect fat storage? Since the extra triglycerides are stored by the body, would taking in smaller amounts at a time prevent that spillover effect? I understand it's ultimately cals in vs. cals out but could there be a difference (although small)?

Any feedback/discussion would be appreciated.. Just some brainstorming thoughts I had today.

Side note/question: do you still eat the same amounts of carbs on rest days and lifting days?


First of all, if what you're doing is working, stick with it.

IMO, spreading carbs out throughout the day is a bad idea. Having insulin levels chronically elevated can lead to decreased insulin sensitivity, and ultimately to Type 2DM (in susceptible individuals). Much better to spike insulin in concert with training, and let it fall to basal levels otherwise.

As for carb timing: John Meadows suggests they be distributed centrifugally, centered on training. That is, allocate carbs first to the intra-workout period, then the peri-workout period, and finally to meals before and after that. When dieting, remove carbs in the reverse order (ie, the last carbs to get the ax would be the intra-workout ones).

I am not a fan of carbs at breakfast, as it stops the fat burning induced by the overnight fast, and may promote fat storage.


Muscles take in glucose far better (getting a higher proportion of glucose than fat cells do) during exercise than any other time. Also amino acids.

If anything, exercise is the perfect opportunity to generate a positive nutrient influx to muscle.

But typically pre-workout and during-workout nutrition has calorie content far below what's burned, let alone generating a positive.

I would shift more of the carb intake towards being taken up during the exercise period. 30-40 g is way below what will be burned during exercise, unless really not training much.

That's not to say that there can't be a deficit incurred during exercise (muscle glycogen burned) which is restored PWO, and to some extent that may be inevitable depending on how hard one works, but I find, as have many, it works better to shift it as much as possible towards the carb uptake coinciding with the exercise.



Just to make sure I understood you correctly.. So maybe swap around the lunchtime carb intake and the preworkout carb intake?? So maybe only have 40 or so for lunch and then hit 80 or 90 grams preworkout? And then fill in the other 90-100 post workout?


So mertdog, maybe I should consider, like Bill said, eating my two largest carb meals right before I lift and then after I lift? If you guys were to structure your carb intake around those four meals like I have it, how would you do it?


If you train like a bodybuilder with higher reps and metabolic intensity, or if you train with lower reps for strength and longer rest periods may affect your decision, but I personally would not take in more than 50 grams of carbs in a meal that is not within an hour before, or 2 hours after training. More like 30-40. So get 30-40 in each of your two meals furthest from training and get the rest around training.


So you'd do:

Breakfast- 40
Lunch- 40
Preworkout- 135
Post workout- 135

Something along those lines?


Part of it depends on how you function in training with food in your stomach. Another part would be what type of carbs.

Personally I do well with numbers such as you said above, if the 135 is divided between pre and during workout and is coming from good liquid forms, but if I tried for that with solid food I wouldn't be able to train well. But some can, depending on the type of food.


They could also be distributed like so, which makes the most sense logically IMO:

530 AM Breakfast - 80 to 90 g
11/12 PM Lunch - 40 to 50 g
500 PM preworkout - 80 to 90 g
830 PM postworkout - 110 to 140 g


Oddly though even though you are somewhat glycogen depleted in the morning I have found that people are a little insulin resistant first thing in the morning: Diabetics tend to need a higher insulin to carb ratio first thing in the morning and it is probably because cortisol rises in the morning and counters some of the effects of insulin, because your body likes to bring up blood sugar a little in the morning.

In fact, breakfast might be a good time to get your liver loaded from a little sugar (as the fructose fraction will go straight to the liver) and possibly BCAAs, MCTs, and even lactose. Again, I am just brainstorming with you, but I have seen first hand evidence that insulin responsiveness is a little lower first thing in the morning.


So you're saying lower amounts of carbs first thing?? I know it might be mental gymnastics we're doing here, and it might only make 1% difference in the long run.. But I do take this seriously and if it does make a hint of difference then I'd like to take advantage of that.


I think there is a bit of a general misunderstanding here. Blood sugar level from carbohydrate consumption isn't equivalent to energy level. You body needs glucose to run but as long as it has available what it needs (and this is different for everyone), higher blood sugar doesn't mean more energy. A large spike and large insulin release can even do the opposite especially when you factor in energy used in digestion and activation of the parasympathetic nervous system.


I understand. I guess then I'm curious if there are opportune times to spike insulin and other times to keep it baseline? Maybe to avoid crashes and to limit storage? I'm not sure if it necessarily works like that but I'm trying to understand and learn. I shifted the majority of my carb consumption pre and post workout to take advantage of the insulin spike, and I try to keep it low throughout the day to avoid those spikes and the potential crashes afterwards


Have you experiences measurable hypoglycemia after eating carbs?

Muscle uses almost all fatty acids to replenish ATP anyway. Carbs are only used quickly at high workload rates for many repeated efforts such that fatty acid oxidation is not sufficient or you actually start running out of available fatty acids. Carbs trigger insulin which is anabolic. The question is whether you want to be anabolic when muscle is ready to be built, or when it is not signaled to be built.


Carb timing is not necessary. Cals IN/Cals OUT.