Carbohydrate Sources

There exist certain carbohydrates that cause a large insulin release (insulinigenic foods) and subsequent fat storage potential, and conversely, there exist carbs that are more fibrous and higher in water (voluminous). Intake of the latter of these two groups yields sustained energy and a lower insulin response.

Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that slows digestion and cellular oxidation of the food in which it resides. Oxidation is prolonged, and thus energy is sustained over a longer period of time, as is satiety. Fibrous foods include fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Whole grains, however, though great sources of fiber, contain more potential sugar and les water than fruits and vegetables, so consumption needs to be monitored.

Voluminous foods that contain large amounts of water will likewise keep you feeling fuller longer; examples include all vegetables and most fruits. Plus, fruits and vegetables pack multiple vitamins and minerals with very few calories relative to whole grains. Fruits and vegetable can be eaten liberally (who can overeat apples?), while whole grains should make up one-fourth to one-half of all carbohydrate intake. Fruits and vegetables are definitely the superior form of carbohydrates in terms of nutrient content, satiety and energy sustainability.

Sugary carbs such as cookies, cakes, donuts, candy, chips, brownies, white bread, pasta, etc., should be kept to a minimum; with small amounts allowed each day (i.e., three bites of chocolate per day). Remember, a “diet” should be sustainable, so think about a potential eating plan as a lifestyle and practice limiting these high-sugar carbs.

Time of Day and Frequency

In order to lose fat and maintain muscle mass, with the goal of improved body composition, it’s important to consider not only the food choices, but also the times at which they are consumed. 5-6 smaller meals throughout the day facilitate maintenance of energy levels, while simultaneously creating a fat-burning situation in the body, as opposed to fat-storing.

Additionally, meals should be consumed every 2-3 hours throughout the day. However, additional consideration of carb intake before and after training sessions is needed for regular exercisers. Pre-workout snacks should be consumed 1-2 hours prior to a workout, and should contain small amounts of carbohydrates and protein (close to a 50-50 ratio). This type of snack will make glucose available in the blood for use during activity, while also limiting insulin release.

For post-exercise, however, even more consideration should be paid to carbohydrates. During intense exercise, blood glucose and usually glycogen stores are used up and need to be replenished. At the same time, however, muscle breakdown occurs, which merits nutritional attention also.

The goal of an optimal post-workout meal is to deliver protein to muscles for repair and reinforcement while also repleting muscle glycogen in preparation for subsequent workout sessions. The post-workout window of opportunity to maximize these goals is 0-3 hours after exercise ceases.

EPOC. Following intense exercise, excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) allows for the body to continue burning fat and calories for an extended period, thus creating a sponge-like situation in the muscles, with the tissue absorbing anything it’s awarded. Maximize EPOC by giving the body exactly what it needs to remain anabolic: protein and carbs.

At this point in the day only, it’s beneficial for a carbohydrate source to be very insulinigenic; insulin is a friend to the post-exercise metabolic situation. Insulin, paired with protein in a post-exercise meal, accelerates protein uptake by the muscles and facilitates muscle growth. Good carb sources for after an intense workout include simple sugar foods like honey and bananas.

Pay your dues

Remember, eliminating whole food groups not only guarantees that whole nutrients go missing, but it also sets up an individuals’ metabolic situation to crave those foods, as is seen with bingeing that frequently occurs after highly restrictive dieting. In order to sustain an intense workout regimen while also using food to maximize fat-burning and muscle –building, consider all macronutrients in moderation.

Protein and vegetables should serve as the cornerstone of any balanced diet, with small amounts of whole grains and healthy fats littering the plate as well. Sustain energy throughout the day by eating frequently and smaller portions than what is commonly seen at many restaurants.

Remember, the purpose of a meal is to remove hunger, not necessarily to create a feeling of fullness. Instead, create a feeling of satisfaction and nourishment. And rest assured that within a few hours, you will again be able to indulge in a clean, nutritious meal that will keep you burning fat, energized and ready to maximize your efforts in the gym.

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