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Mind & Body Transformation (Part 3):
An Excerpt From "Transformation: Unlock Your True Potential"
Carbohydrates: A Double Edged Sword
To truly maximize your physique, which often entails losing fat and gaining muscle, understanding carbohydrates is a must. They can help us or hurt us, and the only way to making them more friend than foe is to truly understand them.
Carbohydrates. They have been blamed for many things, from cravings to the increase in diabetes throughout this country. While they can in fact contribute to gains in body fat and insulin spikes, they are also a necessity to achieving success. Many will disagree with me on this and I guess I can see their point.
Carbohydrates aren't needed to survive per se. The contributions they provide to our body can in fact be produced by other macronutrients, albeit not as easily.
So while it is true that you can "live without" carbohydrates, it would be very difficult. Cravings and quality of life come into play as depression, fatigue and mood swings can occur more often on low carbohydrate nutrition plans.
The muscle pump we all love can also be hard to achieve secondary to the reduced storage of carbohydrates in our muscles in the form of glycogen. Water follows carbohydrates into muscles and as we decrease carbohydrates, water loss is directly related. Therefore, trainees who drop carbohydrates will notice a "flat" look for a period of time as water and glycogen exit the muscles.
So what do we do? Do we increase carbohydrates, cut them out completely, or only eat them at specific times? It can all be confusing and the answer will be different for everyone.
The key is to truly understand this macronutrient so that you as an individual can manipulate them based on your goals, body type and training methods. Having a firm knowledge base in regards to this macronutrient makes all those questions much easier to answer.
The Basics Of Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates are one of the quickest sources of energy at our disposal. Each gram of carbohydrate yields 4
calories. Essentially, if you consume 50 g of carbohydrates, you would be taking in approximately 200 calories (50g x 4 cal/g=200 calories).
Carbohydrates all cause a release of insulin, but the rate at which this happens differs with the type of carbohydrate you consume. Carbohydrates should be thought of as complex, which are slow digesting, and simple, which are quicker to digest.
The faster the digestion, the more insulin will be released. Complex carbohydrates include breads, pasta, oatmeal, rice, and beans.
Simple carbohydrates include sugars, sports drinks, honey, and juices. There are also fibrous carbohydrates such as vegetables. While they are complex by nature, I consider them fibrous as you can eat nearly as many as you want and not worry about gaining weight. Vegetables are extremely slow to digest and cause a very minimal release of insulin, which is why they are so healthy and filling.
Fruit And Milk
While having characteristics of simple, fibrous, and complex carbohydrates, fruit is one of the healthiest foods we can consume. Fruit has a great deal of fiber, which slows digestion, as well as beneficial vitamins and minerals.
Fruit however contains a type of sugar called fructose, and thus earns the classification as a simple carbohydrate in my book. Remember, it has characteristics of simple, complex, and fibrous carbohydrates, but with its sugar content I prefer to look at it as a simple carbohydrate.
Milk is another healthy food that actually has simple carbohydrates in the form of lactose, or "milk sugar." It is also filled with calcium for bone health and protein to rebuild muscles. Milk contains a combination of simple sugars in glucose and galactose, which together make up lactose.
Despite fruit and milk not creating as severe of an insulin spike as glucose by itself, it does so nonetheless. Although I believe we should all consume fruit and milk products to benefit our physiques and overall health, they should be excluded, or eaten at specific times, if one wishes to lose body fat very quickly.
Why Can Fruit And Milk Be A Problem?
One reason fruit can be a problem deals with its poor muscle absorption post workout. Fructose, the type of sugar found in fruit, is unable to be stored as muscle glycogen, and can only be stored in the liver.
Once the 100 g maximum of liver glycogen has been met, the liver will convert any excess fructose into blood-glucose and/or body fat. Our goal is to re-fill our muscle glycogen stores as quickly as possible post workout, thus making fruit a poor choice.
Although you can't refill your muscles glycogen using fruit post workout, it is still a good pre-workout carbohydrate source. Fruit is slow to digest, and will provide an energy source once converted to glucose in the liver.
What about milk? Milk again contains lactose, which is a sugar, and therefore can spike
insulin. Not only that, but it must be broken down into glucose, and that can cause a problem as many are lactose intolerant and can't complete this conversion.
Although I love milk, when trying to get very lean, I have noticed that I won't lose body fat as rapidly if I don't consume it at very specific times. This again is secondary to the sugar content of milk and ensuing insulin spike.
Recent studies have shown that those on low calorie diets who consume milk products actually notice an increase in fat metabolism. Other studies have shown no difference. Each individual varies and therefore you must experiment to see where you stand.
So When Can I Consume Fruit and Milk?
While many steer clear of fruit and milk all together when trying to get very lean, others do not, and find great success. The secret is nutrient timing.
The key is to consume them, as well as most carbohydrates, at a time of day when they are more likely to be used as energy and not fat gain. These periods include breakfast, mid-morning, and surrounding your workout. If you do this, you can still benefit from fruit and milk, while not slowing down your transformation.
Should you consume fruit, it is best to focus on apples, bananas, oranges and berries. These have lower GI scores than pineapples or mangos and therefore keep sugar more stable. If at all possible, limit the amount of dried fruit you consume. The dried forms of any fruit, such as raisins, are much higher in
calories and sugar than their natural or frozen counterparts.
The Glycemic Index
The glycemic index (GI) is something you must understand to create an effective nutrition program. This index refers to how quickly a food is broken down, in comparison to pure glucose with a score of 100, and converted to glucose in the blood. Obviously, the more glucose released, the higher the ensuing insulin spike. So, lower GI scores promote less insulin release and more stable blood sugars.
GI scores are lower for complex carbohydrates and higher for simple carbohydrates.
The higher the glycemic index, the quicker the digestion, glucose release, and ensuing insulin spike. This can quickly lead to fat accumulation. Not only that, but eating carbohydrates high on the glycemic index makes us even hungrier! How? Well, the food is so rapidly digested and processed, the body goes from a high blood sugar to a low one very quickly, as the sudden rush of insulin quickly removes all blood sugar.
The body then desires more food, not to mention making your moody and lethargic. So what do we do? We eat more and more, which quickly leads to less muscle and more fat gains.
Think about it, the last time you ate two cookies, did you want more? In contrast, the last time you ate a huge bowl of oatmeal, what then? The fact that you probably wanted a few more cookies but couldn't wait to be done with your big bowl of oatmeal proves my point.
The reason is that the cookies, or any sugary food, are high on the GI scale and will spike insulin quickly. Oatmeal, high fiber wheat bread, brown rice, sweet potatoes, and black beans are all low GI and will therefore cause a slow, steady release of glucose, resulting in a slower release of insulin.
We also can't forget that fiber, which is higher in complex carbohydrates, slows digestion immensely. Vegetables have one of the highest fiber contents of all foods. When was the last time you wanted three bowls of those things? Even fruit, containing the simple sugar fructose, is lower on the GI scale than glucose, despite both being simple sugars. While not ALWAYS true:
- Complex Carbohydrates tend to be Lower on the GI scale
- Simple Carbohydrates tend to be Higher on the GI scale
Now remember from our discussion on insulin in a previous article, the more dramatic the insulin release, the harder it is to burn fat, and the easier it is to store it. The end result of eating low GI carbohydrates then is the slow release of glucose for energy.
The slower the release of glucose, the slower the release of insulin. This keeps you full for a prolonged period of time and makes it difficult for the body to store fat.
The Key To The Puzzle
The key is to use the body's natural physiology to our advantage. We talked in the previous article about the body using glucose and glycogen (a.k.a stored glucose) as its primary energy source during exercise. While you lift weights or exercise, the body is slowly using glucose and breaking down glycogen as fuel.
In fact, if you do cardio, right after lifting, it is much easier to tap right into your fat stores, as the body has used most of its glycogen and glucose to get you through the workout. Our body needs fuel to keep going so it must start burning fat. It is the second best time, next to early morning cardio on an empty stomach, to significantly burn fat.
So why not workout and not eat for hours, surely your body will keep burning fat? Well, not so fast. After the completion of your workout, you have a maximum of one-two hours to consume a post-workout meal, or your body will switch gears on you. It will continue to release cortisol, which burns muscle for fuel, shuts down fat loss, and hampers your immune system.
After you have completed your workout, with all your depleted glycogen, the body is begging for nutrients. That's why the post-exercise meal is by far the most important of the day. I'll say that again, the most important of the day. Now is the time to eat high GI carbohydrates and a fast acting protein. This will cause a significant insulin spike and reverse the process back into an anabolic state.
Why Do I Want An Insulin Spike?
You want the insulin to shuttle all your nutrients back into your muscle to initiate repair, and negate any negative side effects the stress of the workout might have had. The body will have a difficult time storing fat at this time as it's first priority is to refill the liver and muscle glycogen stores.
The high GI carbohydrates, causing an insulin spike, will shuttle the majority of nutrients you consume into your liver and muscles, making it very difficult to store fat. Now, don't get too excited, there is a limit, and if you eat too much of anything, even plain chicken breasts and rice cakes, you will gain fat.
The best choices post-workout include fast acting whey protein and simple GI carbohydrates such as Gatorade. Even white bread, although being a complex carbohydrate, has a high GI score, and is acceptable post workout.
In my book Transformation: Unlock Your True Potential, I detail the protocol I use in the hours surrounding my workout. This nutrition protocol will replenish all your glycogen stores, limit fat uptake, and quickly initiate muscle repair. The only foods to shy away from post workout are low GI/high fiber foods, such as vegetables, and any type of fat. Both of these foods will dramatically slow digestion, which is the opposite of what you want at this time.
Complex & Fibrous Carbohydrates (Usually Low GI & High Fiber):
- Slow digestion and insulin release.
- Should never be consumed post workout.
- Ideal at all other meals as they slow digestion, minimize fat gain, and maintain a feeling of fullness.
Complex & Fibrous Carbohydrate Sources (Usually Low GI):
- Whole Wheat or Ezekiel Bread
- Sweet Potatoes
- Brown Rice
Simple Carbohydrate (Usually High GI):
- Cause massive insulin spike and fat storage if used at the wrong time.
- Always consume post workout- but can also be consumed at breakfast-both times when the body is low on glycogen and blood sugar.
- When eaten at the wrong time of day, one of the main reasons individuals gain body fat.
- Fruit and milk, although healthy, can make it difficult to burn body fat secondary to the simple carbohydrates they contain. The key is to time your intake of fruits and milk.
- Stay away from fruit post workout, as the muscles will not be able to refill glycogen stores with fructose-the sugar found in fruit.
- If you consume fruit, focus more on natural or frozen varieties rather than dried. This will keep calories and sugar intake much lower.
- Apples, bananas, oranges and berries have lower GI scores than mangos or pineapple.
Simple Carbohydrate Sources (Usually High GI):
- Fruit Juice
- Fruit (lower GI than most all simple carbohydrates)
Understanding carbohydrates is one of the keys to reaching your physique goals. No other macronutrient is more misunderstood. If you consume them at the wrong times they can severely derail your progress. However, used appropriately, they can significantly enhance your physique and allow you to enjoy life to the fullest.
In the next article of this series, we will discuss perhaps the hottest and most underestimated of all supplements. At least for right now! Don't miss this next installment as it will give you a leg up on your physique and a better understanding of what is sure to be a must have in every ones supplement arsenal. Branch Chain Amino Acids!
This was an excerpt from Dr. Yehyawi's new book Transformation: Unlock Your True Potential.