CARB TIMING: WHEN TO EAT CARBS FOR OPTIMAL RESULTS

carbohydrates-healthy-eating

We can actually manipulate when we eat certain foods in order to see greater results. First, we need an understanding of what happens when we eat particular food items. We can then use that information to eat strategically in order to see results like losing body fat or putting on muscle to get fit. 

I’ve tried many types of eating approaching from counting calories to counting macros and even just general healthy eating through listening to my body. They all can work. I don’t knock any type of eating approach because only you know what’s best for you just like only I know what’s best for me. I commend everyone who is trying to better their health through nutrition.

I am passionate about my nutrition approach because it’s helped me reach my physical goals in the most effective way while allowing me to enjoy food and life. With other approaches, I’ve seen some results but couldn’t maintain that eating style long-term. Or, I could maintain the plan, but I wasn’t seeing any physical results. I stick to mine because I can accomplish both.

Carbohydrate timing plays a key role in how I eat. As you’ve heard me mention, I eat based on science, more specifically based on physiology… how food affects our bodies on the inside. This information helped me form my meal plan and see results naturally such as shedding fat (and keeping it off!) while being able to put on muscle mass (something that is very difficult for me!).

In today’s post, I am sharing how I manipulate carbohydrates to best see results.

NUTRIENT TIMING + WHY IT MATTERS

For many, many years, I’ve advocated that the types of food we eat matter (ex: donuts versus rice for carbs). Fat loss is not as simple as the difference between the calories we consume and the calories we burn; yes, a caloric deficit can lead to weight loss. But, what types of food we eat in order to achieve our goals is important. I’m all about training and eating in the smartest, most effective way. I’m not a chick who likes to waste time as you can tell lol (I did plenty of that in earlier years while trying to get in shape). So, while there are many ways to see results, I’m here to help you do so in an efficient manner.

Nutrient timing refers to altering what macronutrients we eat at specific times of the day. We base this on how the body handles different types of foods at certain times along with our schedules.

Nutrient timing is way, way cool (like the actual science is mind blowing). I’m going to leave a good deal of the science out to keep this simple, but if you find it cool too, do some research. Nutrient timing aka eating certain macronutrients at certain times can actually change where those ingested nutrients go. This is called nutrient partitioning. For example, are those carbs going to end up helping us build muscle or are they going to be stored on our bellies?! We can control parts of this! How cool!

All of this affects our body composition (fat versus muscle), our athletic performance, our overall health, and how we feel on a daily basis.

 

TYPES OF CARBOHYDRATES

There are 3 main categories of carbs: starch, sugar and fiber. Carbohydrates can also be categorized as simple or complex based on chemical structure. Simple carbohydrates, like sugars are those that contain just one or two units of carbon, oxygen and hydrogen molecules. Starches and fibers are comprised of multiple sugar molecules and are considered complex carbohydrates.

It’s easy to see how a complex carb would digest slower in the body as compared to a simple, sugary carb. These slower-digesting carbs help to keep blood sugar levels more stable and provide a more steady energy.

However, this doesn’t mean that simple carbs are “bad.”

This is important to know…. simple carbs can more easily cause spikes in insulin levels; insulin is a hormone that, among other things, regulates the entry of carbohydrates into muscle cells. If insulin levels were to never be raised, we would have a very difficult time building muscle. So, you can see how we can use different carbohydrates at different times for different purposes, such as building muscle. 

CARB TIMING FOR FAT LOSS + MUSCLE

When we understand carbohydrates, the types and the role linked hormones like insulin play, we can begin to eat in a way that supports our goals. When it comes to carbohydrates, timing is everything!

Prior to a workout, you can see the benefit in a simple carbohydrate to spike insulin (promoting muscle hypertrophy) and provide quick energy. After a workout, our bodies are like a sponge waiting to soak up carbohydrates because our glycogen stores (how our bodies store carbs) were used up as energy during exercise. Carbs are especially beneficial for glycogen replacement after a workout. Protein also plays a key role here; protein acts as a broom to sweep those carbohydrates into our muscle cells. This is why I always promote meals combinations of protein, fat, carbohydrates (and ideally, veggies too!) at every meal.

Following a workout, I like to ensure I eat my meal within 45-ish minutes. Again, my meal plan members know, I like to keep my carbohydrate portions the same at the meals I eat carbs regardless of timing. But, if I were to have a little extra (because you know how something that just happens lol), this is the meal where I would enjoy slightly more carbohydrates. It’s also the time where I allow for a little bit more “fun” in my carb choice… maybe my carb option is chips or ice cream. Balance, right?! But, time it out here!

In general, I taper my carbohydrate intake throughout the day. If you’re a member of the meal plan, this is all laid out for you, so refer to the plan for the specifics on all of this. After a carbohydrate fast when we are asleep, our bodies will be able to tolerate carbohydrates pretty well in the morning. The same goes throughout the day as we are active with our daily lives. Our bodies handle carbohydrates best after our workout. The one time of the day when we don’t require the energy that carbs provide is before bed… if not used, this is when the body stores carbs to be used as energy at a later time =body fat. This is why my carbohydrates dwindle as the day goes on. 

There is one question that almost always arises after a discussion like this: “what if I workout at night?” Eat carbs after your workout! I’m just assuming here… my guess is that you don’t workout, go home and fall right to sleep. So, crush that workout, enjoy a MEAL with protein, fat, carbs and veggies, do your thing for a little bit, then catch some ZzZz’s. Carbs at night aren’t the problem. Carbs when you’re not using them for energy or glycogen replacement (ex: late at night as you’re relaxing on the couch when you worked out 12 hours earlier) can make losing body fat a little bit more challenging. 

I hope you understand a bit more about carbohydrates and how timing can help you see results. As always, I’m here to help lay everything out for you, so please refer to my meal plan if you need more help here or feel free to ask me questions and I would be happy to do a blog post follow up!

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