All carbs make you fat!" That's the slander. I'm sure you've also heard
"There's no such thing as an essential carbohydrate." More half-truths and
according to many, myself included. Such statements are akin to dietary
treason. Make no mistake, the anti-carb crusade remains in full swing and I'm
here to re-assure you that carbohydrates are indeed essential in both building
mass and losing body fat. Let's take a closer look at the evidence and clarify
what you really need to know about carbohydrates.
Just The Facts
Carbohydrates run the gambit from something as innocent as a yam or baked beans
all the way down to bread and cotton candy. Within that range you'll also find
fruits, vegetables and whole grains. With the exception of vegetables, all
carbohydrates to some degree are the same in that they're related. The common
thread that justifies the relationship? Sugar. All carbohydrates break down into
sugar, often referred to as glucose.
Glucose goes part and parcel with gaining mass. First, it is the main source of
fuel. Skimp here and you just can't train hard enough to stimulate growth.
Second, glucose initiates the release of an anabolic hormone called insulin.
Insulin helps drive glucose and amino acids the building blocks of protein
into muscles. The net effect; you increase lean body mass.
Of course, going overboard with carbohydrates can cause an increase in body fat.
That's where most of the bad rap comes from. However, most of the carbohydrates
you eat are first stored as muscle glycogen. Only as glycogen reserves begin to
fill up will some of the carbohydrates be stored as body fat. If you are
training hard and frequent the gym at least 4 days a week, chances are you'll
need quite a bit of carbs to build mass. I recommend starting at 2 grams per
pound of bodyweight. So the 200 pounder hoping to build mass will need at least
400 grams of carbohydrates each day.
Dieters often find reducing carbohydrates is a good idea for the following two
reasons. First, reducing carbohydrates is a viable way to reduce calories and
calorie control is a requisite for reducing body fat. When calories are reduced,
the body taps stored body fat as fuel. The other reason reducing carbs works
also has to do with insulin. When carbs go down, insulin release also goes down
and a lower insulin environment helps control the appetite and favors fat loss.
While insulin is anabolic it drives glucose and amino acids into muscles - it
also tends to seal off fat cells preventing a drop in body fat. So, when you
reduce carbs, not only do you create a calorie deficit but you remove insulin
surges which can helps unseal fat cells allowing them to be burned off as fuel.
That's where the no-carb craze enters the picture. However, dumping all carbs is
more than misleading.
The no-carb crew believes that fat can only be burned when carbs are kept close
to zero or under 50 grams a day about that found in a small apple and a single
thin slice of bread. That's not true. As long as you eat fewer carbs along with
fewer calories than you typically eat on a daily basis, you will start to burn
some body fat. Plus extreme low carb dieting poses a few problems. Near
carb-free diets completely zap your energy levels which downgrades the metabolic
rate. In a rush to lose fat fast, the individual who slashes carbs across the
board will often create a downdraft in the metabolic rate the total calories
burned each day. So while he begins to eat radically less calories and carbs,
the body often compensates by downgrading its metabolism.
The other negative; those who train with weights using a very low carb diet
often lose muscle because you need an adequate carbohydrate intake to preserve
and hold muscle mass. When carbs are cut too low, you burn a lot of muscle while
you train. When you burn muscle, you initiate a drop in metabolism because the
total amount of muscle one carries it directly linked to burning calories. When
you have a lot of muscle, you burn a lot of calories and when you add muscle you
upgrade your metabolism. On the other hand, when you burn muscle, you downgrade
your metabolism. I call it dumb dieting. Most dieters who train with weights can
see great results by modifying their carb intake from 2 or more grams
recommended in the mass gaining phase to 1 to 1.5 grams per pound of bodyweight
in order to cut up. That would mean a 200 pound bodybuilder or athlete eating
400 or more grams daily to build mass would drop down to 200 to 300 grams to cut
up without resorting to extreme low carbs which has the potential to cause a
quick drop in muscle mass and metabolism.
Fast vs Slow
One distinction among carbohydrates is the speed at which they hit the blood
stream as glucose. What's a difference between 40 grams of carbohydrates from a
bagel and 40 grams from a yam? The calorie and carbohydrate content are the same
but the speed at which the food finally enters the blood as glucose is quite
different. The bagel all 40 carbs will hit the blood faster than the yam.
This result influences how much insulin the body will release. When carbs hit
the blood fast, more insulin is secreted than when they hit the blood at a
slower rate. So we have to determine is there a benefit or detriment to the
speed at which carbs hit the bloodstream? The answer is yes to both.
Mass building requires you eat a lot of food including a lot of carbohydrates.
For many, the appetite just does not justify eating all that food. It becomes
rather difficult to eat 5 to 6 large meals a day. That's where fast digesting
carbs come into play. Fast digesting carbs release a lot of insulin and insulin
is an appetite stimulant. If you're trying to build mass and find it difficult
to eat, then try eating mostly fast digesting carbs.
Fast digesting carbs also are strongly anabolic in the meal following training.
When you train hard you deplete your carbohydrate reserves and stress hormones
are released that trigger the breakdown of muscle tissue. Eating fast digesting
carbs immediately following a workout (combined with a fast digesting protein
like whey, egg whites or fish) jacks up insulin levels and this not only kick
starts the rebuilding of glycogen stores, but also reverese and suppresses the
stress hormones that come with hard training.
Fat burning requires appetite control. When you gain control over your desire to
eat, staying on a diet becomes a lot easier! That's where slower digesting carbs
come into play. Slower digesting carbs create a smaller insulin burst and lower
insulin levels tend to help dieters feel less hungry.
Slower digesting carbs also create an environment more conducive to burning fat.
That's because slower burning carbs create smaller bursts of insulin and smaller
outputs tend to create a hormonal environment that allows fat to be burned. Of
Course calories count. You can't eat all slow burning carbs but more calories
than you need each day and expect to cut up. However, slow burners help when
calories are controlled. So if you think you're going to eat 600 grams of carbs
a day all from really slow burning sources such as oats and still get
ripped, your either wrong or just delirious!
Dieters trying to cut up should stick mostly with slow burning carbs with the
exception of the post training meal. That's when fast digesting carbs are needed
to off set potential muscle loss associated with hard training. So if you want
to splurge on something with a lot of sugar, do so as long as you stay within
a reasonable carbohydrate intake for the day. Middle of the road burning carbs
(see below) can also be used by dieters as well. These should be combined with
vegetables because veggies help slow the digestion of carbohydrates. In other
words, combining low calories vegetables along with pasta can transform the
pasta into a slower burning carbohydrate.
FAST DIGESTING CARBS
� Rice cakes
� Fruit juice
� Ripe bananas
� Instant white rice
� Fat free muffins
� Fat free cookies
� Fat free pop tarts
� White bread
� Cream of rice cereal
� Cold Cereals (except fiber based cereals)
� Mashed potatoes
� Shredded Wheat
SLOW DIGESTING CARBS
� Red potatoes
� Brown rice
� Basmati rice
� Whole wheat pasta
� Buckwheat pancakes
� Cream of Rye cereal
� Whole grain bread
� Rye bread
� Oranges and orange juice (with pulp)
� Fiber Cereals (Fiber One bran Flakes)
� Black beans, kidney beans and red beans
MIDDLE OF THE ROAD (Burn neither really slow nor really fast)
� White rice (slower cooking)
� Pasta � most kinds. Angel hair tends to border on fast
� Wheat Bread
� Oatmeal Bread
� Low Carb Solution
Many readers might be aware that I have a book out called the Low Carb Rule &
Recipe Book. From reading the above advice, you know I�m no big fan of low carb
diets because athletes need them to grow and they need them when dieting to
prevent a drop in the metabolic rate. Plus, carbs while dieting help you keep
you hard earned muscle mass! That said, low carb diets have there place- with
very overweight and completely inactive individuals. Several studies are
confirming that the clinically obese group loses more weight using low carb
diets than other diet approaches. For the most part, the success rate is being
attributed to the fact that many obese people benefit greatly from the appetite
reducing effects of severely restricting carbs, which leads to a drop off in
total food consumption. For the record: I do suggest low carb diets � but only
for the obese and the obese who are so large, they find exercising to be nearly
impossible due to their size.
By Chris Aceto
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