Timing of carbohydrates in the diet is an advanced topic in nutrition in that it should not be the primary focus, but rather a secondary. The foundational topics like protein intake and food hygiene must be sorted out first and you must be cooking your own food (food prep) for carbohydrate timing to become your focus.
Specifically, if you are looking to lose fat, and maintain or grow your lean muscle mass, carbohydrates are incredibly important. We also want to remove the guilt associated with carbs a little bit and give you a window to feel good about consuming them.
Carbohydrates of all kinds when consumed turn into sugar in the body. Some do so more rapidly than others.
In a normal healthy body, the response to sugars hitting the bloodstream is a surge of Insulin. Insulin helps to get that sugar out of the blood and into tissues.
Insulin is a powerful Anabolic hormone. A building hormone and one that triggers either the synthesis of new materials or storage of energy.
The key with carbohydrates is to consume them at a time when your body is most sensitive to them. Sensitivity is another way of saying, when the body can most effectively clear the sugar from the bloodstream to functional tissue. We are aiming to get sugar into our lean tissue for repair, building, and glycogen storage, as opposed to our fat cells for storage.
Times when our bodies are most sensitive to carbs:
- Morning after a long fast overnight. Your body has depleted your carbohydrate stores in the form of liver glycogen to maintain blood levels overnight. Some carbs, perhaps in the form of fruit, for breakfast can be processed and stored in the liver.
- Immediately after training – 20-30mins – the muscle contractions from resistance training wake up the receptors on the muscle cells and make them very receptive to Sugars. Simple sugars or fast digesting sugars are best consumed within this window
- Two to three hours post-training – The post-training carb sensitive window can last up to 3 hours after you have done resistance training. This is a great time to incorporate some complex carbs or starches into your meals. The reason something more complex like sweet potatoes or rice might be appropriate here is to ensure a slightly slower digestion time to keep you from experience any food cravings or blood sugar crashes.
- Each serving of carbs in your day should be accompanied by protein. Especially in the immediate post-workout window Protein and Carbs combined is ideal.
- Carbs and protein should also be consumed with a fat source in all meals EXCEPT immediately post workout. Keep fats out of that window. Some healthy fat options are grass-fed butter, avocado oil, coconut oil.