Optimising Carbohydrates For a Fitter Body
Time to take a deep dive into the wonderfully gluttonous world of the often misunderstood and frequently demonised macronutrient, the glorious carbohydrate. Carbohydrates should be your trusted companion, side-kick, lover and the best mate with a twisted sense of humour on the road to an athletic body.
Carbs, the king of macronutrient?
For most guys a diet high in carbs delivers a stable energy levels, improves the performance in the weight room, delivers better support for muscle growth and enhanced recovery from intense training. What’s not like? Carbohydrates are also the body’s preferred source of energy. As guys following a plant-based diet we don’t want to be utilising the hard chewed protein from black beans by converting them to energy instead of muscle cells.
Besides, a life of a plant based eater is a helluva lot tastier and rainbow-like with plenty of carbohydrates in it. If you aren’t a carboaficianado yet, you’ll be one after we’re done today.
So before you go “all keto” on us, there’s a good chance that a low carb diet might negatively affect your muscle gaining abilities and performance during high volume strength training. But, this shouldn’t really be a conversation for us to have in the first place as eating a low carb on a wholefood plant-based diet is next to impossible.
Fact: beans are high in carbs. And if you don’t eat oats...Get out. GO. I can’t even.
The optimal amount of carbohydrates to build muscle
Unless you have a lot of fat to lose we recommend setting your carbohydrates somewhere around 55% of your total daily calories. It seems like maths is unavoidable so let’s pull out the calculator for a second.
To get your total calories for the day, we’ll use a simple calculation:
bodyweight in kg x 16
For a 75kg male we first need to convert his weight to pounds 75 kg x 2.2 = 165 lb.
Then we do the simple math of 165 lb x 16 = 2640 calories per day.
2640 calories x 55% = 1452 calories from carbohydrates.
Each gram of carbohydrate has 4 calories meaning that to get the total number of carbohydrates we’ll do more math, seriously, F.M.L.:
1452 calories / 4 = 363 grams of carbohydrates per day.
You may re-holster your calculator.
Getting fat from eating too many carbohydrates
Yes, if “too much” carbohydrates means that you are eating way above your daily calorie target. It’s not that too much carbohydrates make you fat, but you are just eating too much in general. Sure there are instances where the person is insulin resistant. But in most cases these people are sedentary and obese. Not plant based guys who lift weights with the intensity of a nuclear fueled lawn mower.
If you’re lifting weights and getting fat at a high rate, it’s probably not the carbs, but the fact that you’re loving your food too much. Either the quantity of food is too much, or the food quality is crap, making it easier to over eat.
Some good wholefood carbohydrates sources
Wholefoods are your healthiest sources of carbohydrates. Besides the carbs you’ll also get a decent dose of protein with some of the carb sources and the all important minerals and nutrients. Plus fibre to make your gut and butt hum.
Compare the above chart to eating a diet consisting of donuts and soft drinks. Perhaps tasty and harmless in small quantities, they carry close to zero nutritional value and are likely to leave you feeling hungry and flat, making them easier to overeat. I mean, can you really have too many donuts?
Even if you could maintain your physique dunking your donuts into soft drinks and sugar filled fruit juice, what’s the point of having the looks but not the health?
But, there can be times for non-wholefoods carbs
There might be times when your gut can’t handle the volume of the food you need to eat and digest Let’s face it, eating your protein and carbohydrates from wholefood sources adds to a lot of fibre, too much gut and butt hum is no bueno.
At times you might want to include some non-wholefood carb sources giving your fine porcelein toilet a breather while still getting the calories in. Things like dried fruit and granola can provide a big hit of carbs with relatively little chewing and digesting. Just stay away from soft drinks and other artificial junk. That shit adds to nothing.
What about carbohydrate timing
“Quick! Slam down your carbohydrate and protein combo shake within minutes of finishing your training session or you’ll lose all your gains, bro!”
Seriously, that’s how it used to be, and we were doing it just as much as anyone. But the current science shows that instead of the once hyped 45 minute “anabolic window” the window is waaaaaaayyyy bigger. In fact, it’s more like a barn door. Which in a hindsight makes total sense since body is wickedly smart and adaptable.
As long as you eat a meal somewhere within two hours after your session you’re golden. And no, it doesn’t have to be a carbohydrate supplement or a “muscle gainer”. All those are basically just sugar disguised in fancy (and expensive) packaging. You’re much better off by eating a real meal consisting of protein and carbs with some fats in the mix.
As for pre-workout, try different meal combinations to see what powers you through your workouts the best. Some folks do better with longer gap between a meal and training, others like to eat a small meal right before hitting the weights. Take notes on what works for you and then carry that torch for as long it keeps delivering results.
Eat wholefoods for at least 90% of the time. If you’re lifting weight and putting on fat with a high rate, it’s probably not the carbs but the total calories.
Worry less about timing your carbohydrates and more about the total daily quantity and quality of the food. Fit your eating habits around your lifestyle, training and preferences. Experiment to see what works for you when spacing your meal before the training session.
Stop counting your carbs. Eat wholefood and adjust your eatin gbased on your results.
And eat oats, dammit.