Do you “walk past a carb” and get fat?
It seems that way sometimes doesn’t it?
Yet, there are many men and women that can literally eat anything and not gain an ounce of fat, but chances are, that’s not you. It certainly wasn’t me.
Learning to properly manage carb intake has taken me years of trial and error.
Like some people, I used to think I had to starve myself of carbs to ever see my abs. Even when I was training hard, it felt like I had to really limit my carb intake or I would get fat.
I really felt that because I had to limit my carbs so much that my growth suffered big time! I barely had enough energy in the gym, and when other guys were getting insane pumps, I was struggling to feel any at all.
There were days when I was amped to train, but as soon as I got to the gym to start the workout, I felt like I needed a nap. I needed a double dose of pre-workout just to get me started.
And I really had no idea why!
I was doing exactly what the magazines and other fitness pros told me to do.
The other guys would grow really fast, and I seemed to struggle to gain any muscle at all.
I have tried simply disregarding my bodyfat levels, eating the amount of carbs suggested by lean bodybuilders and magazines, and my fat accumulation was so fast that my immediate insulin resistance led to poor energy for my workouts, constant sleepy days and even more fat gain.
Following the diet recommendations of typical pro bodybuilders, and average “trainers”, will simply NOT work for 99% of the population of the world!
If you can eat whatever you want and stay lean, then you wouldn’t likely be reading this article.
Is it just a fact of life that some people will always be lean, and others will gain fat, or struggle every day to keep it off?
After 15 years of using myself as the test dummy (literally!), as well as training 1000’s of clients and friends, I can unequivocally say that you CAN learn to manage carbohydrates to maximize growth and minimize fat gain.
Here are the 7 essentials of carb management to ensure you’re gaining muscle and NOT fat:
Just like in life, what gets measured gets managed.
It may sound complicated but if you don’t know what you’re taking in, how do you expect to manage it?
You don’t need it to take over your life, but learning some simple tools to determine how many carbs are in common foods will go a long way to gauging your progress. And remember, the more meticulous you are, the faster you can get results.
1 average apple: 25g carbs
1 cup cooked rice: 50 grams carbs
1 cup dry oatmeal: 60g carbs
2 pieces Ezekial bread: 30g carbs
1 medium sweet potato (8oz): 48g carbs.
You get the picture.
Figure out the basic list of the things you eat on a regular basis and make note of them. This will allow you to take control of your carb intake and to gauge energy levels.
Apply simple logic… if your workouts are lagging, and recovery isn’t great, try a little extra carb.
If you get fat eating what you are now, it’s time to change it up. Either start burning more, or stop eating so much.
2) Earn your carbs
The best time to eat carbs?
Right after you earned them!
Do something out of the ordinary to earn your carbs. Get up and move!
Sitting at your desk all day won’t do very much for depleting muscle glycogen, so cramming down a huge serving of pasta before you train won’t likely do you any good unless you’re very depleted.
Earning your carbs with a something physically active will, “open your cells”, to being more receptive to the glycogen influx from eating carbohydrates, and will also burn off some of the glycogen currently stored in your muscles to make room for more.
Remember, glycogen stores are limited. Just like the gas tank in your car, once it’s full it’s full. Pouring more over the top won’t increase your ability to store it.
3) Eat most of your carbs late in the day, and/or after a workout
Your body has two primary energy sources. Carbs and fats.
It constantly switches back and forth between the two depending on a number of factors throughout the day (eg; blood sugar, epinephrine levels).
Eating more protein and fats early in the day will ensure your body is efficiently using fats as it’s primary source of fuel. As soon as you substantially spike your blood sugar with carbohydrate ingestion, your blood sugar rises and your body stops burning fat and immediately switches to using carbs for fuel.
Depending on your body’s ability to use glycogen (insulin sensitivity), eating carbs first thing in the day can not only make your body stop using any fat for fuel, but also make your body insulin resistant, and therefore you won’t use carbs effectively either. This is a term called ‘metabolic inflexibility’.
Being metabolically flexible means your body will adapt and burn whatever you put in. Inflexible means you’re likely to store whatever you put in.
The two best ways to overcome metabolic inflexibility?
– Eating protein, fats, and veggies early in the day, and saving carbs for after you workout, or the evening.
– Frequent exercise.
4) Low glycemic carbs will help balance blood sugar and help you to avoid binging
Going too low carb can be a double edge sword in itself. You’ll get hungry!
By eating mostly lower glycemic carbs, you will avoid the peaks and valleys associated with fluctuating insulin levels from consuming high sugar, high glycemic foods. Lower glycemic carbs are often the better choice, especially for people who tend be to insulin resistant.
Insulin resistance means that you can eat the same amount of carbohydrate as someone else, but your body has to produce more insulin to get that same amount of glycogen into the cells.
That extra insulin can often lead to low blood sugar or hypoglycemia – that feeling of dizziness, sweatiness, and extreme desire to eat.
Mixing protein with your carb meals can slow stomach emptying and therefore slow down insulin spikes (the difference isn’t massive so eating protein doesn’t justify donuts as carb sources people!).
6) Don’t drink your calories
If you’re a male over 12% body fat, female over 20% body fat, chances are you’re insulin resistant. Drinking carbs in the form of juices, powders, etc, isn’t a good idea.
Solid food will fill you up and take longer to digest, therefore not spiking insulin as much (the converse of this is people looking to bulk aggressively should consume a lot of calories from liquids).
7) Add some veggies to all of your meals (except immediately post-workout)
Adding fiber from vegetables can be one of the best tools for managing blood sugar, insulin resistance, and fat gain. It will keep blood sugar much more stable and avoid peaks and valleys.
Post-workout is the only time when you WANT a larger insulin spike (if you’re a male under 12% bodyfat/female under 20%).