CARBOHYDRATES: UNDERSTANDING AND OPTIMISING INTAKE

There exists considerable confusion surrounding macronutrients, particularly how much of each one an individual should consume. The absence of universal guidelines adds to the perplexity, as what proves effective for one person may be unsuitable for another.

So while I like to look at each person as an individual here are four key considerations I use when it comes to carbohydrate intake.

Earn:

When engaging in physical training, glycogen stores in the muscles get depleted. Carbohydrates play a crucial role in replenishing these stores, comparable to wringing out a water-soaked sponge. The aim is to replenish exactly what was used during exercise, avoiding excess that could lead to fat storage. 

Following an intense leg training session that leaves you in need of crutches, for instance, indicates a potential need for additional carbohydrates. The size of muscle groups engaged in training correlates with glycogen depletion, determining the amount of carbs that can be justified.

Deserve:

Individual carbohydrate needs are influenced by leanness and muscle mass, impacting insulin sensitivity—the ability to efficiently utilize carbohydrates as fuel without excessive fat storage. I will generally prescribe higher levels of carbohydrates to leaner, and/or more muscular individuals.

Carbohydrates throughout the day might also be advised for individuals experiencing stress to help manage stress levels effectively.

Timing:

Carbohydrate allocation timing varies among individuals, with four potential options:

  • Post Training: This period capitalizes on heightened insulin sensitivity immediately after depleting glycogen stores through intense and prolonged exercise.
  • At Night: Evening carb intake may contribute to improved sleep quality by reducing stress levels and increasing serotonin, promoting a restful night.
  • Combination: Depending on overall carbohydrate intake goals, a combination of post-training and evening consumption may be recommended.
  • Particularly Lean or Stressed Individuals: For these individuals, optimal carbohydrate times are post-workout and before bedtime, leveraging peak insulin sensitivity during these periods. Bedtime carbs also boost serotonin and GABA, enhancing sleep quality.

Type:

Choosing carbohydrates that are well-tolerated and non-inflammatory is crucial. Individual tolerance varies, such as avoiding gluten-based options like myseklf. Post-training, opt for higher glycemic index (GI) carbohydrates like oats, fruit, white potato, and white rice to facilitate rapid insulin spikes for nutrient absorption into muscles. Outside of this timeframe, favor low GI options such as sweet potato, berries, specific rice types, and pumpkin to maintain stable blood sugar levels and avoid insulin spikes leading to subsequent low blood sugar levels. Understanding and customizing carbohydrate choices can significantly impact overall well-being and fitness goals.

Summary:

As you can see, there are therefore many factors that will go into determining the optimal carbohydrate intake. As with all aspects of an individual’s diet though, you must look to check and recheck several key markers such as sleep, stress, body fat, lean mass, performance, well-being to determine if things are going well or if changes need to be made. It is the check, adjust if necessary and recheck that is the most important part.

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