High Carbs For Everyone Carb Nightmare?

You see it
first! Some pretty disturbing EARLY data revealing the struggle your body
undertakes just to deal with dietary carbohydrates while in a sore state. You
punish your body with intense exercise but you’re certainly no runner. The
bottom line is, you shouldn’t have to rely on high carb recommendations that
stem from research on endurance athletes! Well, you don’t have to anymore…

Do you get muscle soreness regularly from your lifting? If you train intensely,
using eccentric contractions (“negatives”) you’re probably no
stranger to the pain that comes from muscle damage. By “muscle
damage” we mean the microscopic trauma that causes weakness and soreness
while your body struggles to recover. Experienced lifters and physiologists
know that the actual time spent in the gym is destructive, not constructive;
that is, maximal growth comes only after some stress is placed upon a muscle
and some damage is done. But many do not realize that if a large enough amount
of muscle tissue is stressed, their ability to take-up and metabolize blood
glucose is considerably worsened. That’s right. Worsened.

A disease
that is similar to (but more severe than) this state of poor glucose tolerance
is Type II diabetes. Type II diabetics suffer from bodily tissues that are
chronically unresponsive to insulin. The carbohydrates they eat enter their
bloodstream (as glucose) but tend to stay there, gumming-up (glycosylating)
other blood constituents and casing the pancreas to dump insulin in an effort
to drive it in. About 90% of them are obese and have other problems related to
hyperinsulinemia. Although many bodybuilders actually use insulin injections to
aid muscle growth and recovery (dangerous and not recommended!), Type II
diabetes is definitely “too much of a good thing”. You see, having
excess insulin in one’s circulation can cause a number of problems, not the
least of which is excess body FAT.

Enter exercise. It’s a great way to get muscles to take-up blood glucose
independent of insulin. Endurance training and weight training are a critical
part of American Diabetes Association guidelines. But spending 30 minutes on a
universal machine lifting two plates is a far cry from having 315 on one’s back
for six sets of ten! This is one thing we’ve been discovering lately in the
Human Nutrition Lab (HNL) at Kent State University. Place enough load on large
muscle groups using negatives – as many athletes do – and glucose intolerance
can result! It’s not as severe as that seen in diabetics but it appears to be
enough to dampen recovery. You see, muscles need to turn blood glucose into
glycogen (stored carbs) to stay full and energetic… but it can’t get into a
damaged muscle very well. It’s a “catch-22″ situation. Eccentric contractions
induce superior growth4 but result in long recovery periods and poor
carbohydrate efficiency.(Ref 1,2,3,6,7) With regards to glucose intolerance,
it’s a scenario similar in appearance to Syndrome X, a condition rampant in
western societies characterized by obesity and hypertension – presumably due to
poor glucose handling. Even without intense lifting nearly 10% of men are
hyperglycemic (have abnormally high blood glucose) (5).

Taking a look at data that’s hot off the presses from the HNL at Kent State, we
see that early results suggest hampered glucose tolerance in all subjects from
muscle damage. This bodes poorly for maximal recovery. The lines come from an
oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) performed before and 24 hours after an
intense workout. An OGTT is simply a series of blood draws, taken before and
immediately after ingestion of 75 g of glucose (fast-acting sugar). Blood
glucose commonly goes up about 40 points (mg/ dl) between 30-60 minutes, then
insulin drives it back down. We didn’t expect blood glucose to be this affected
by the intense (eccentric) lifting. You see, the body’s control over
circulating glucose is necessarily TIGHT. We hypothesized (guessed) that
subjects’ pancreases would have to dump extra insulin to keep the glucose down
in the face of all this “trauma”, but not this actual hyperglycemic
response; wow! The exercise bout consisted of six sets of six repetitions at
80% of the subjects’ one rep max. Both bench press and squatting were performed
in this manner on a Smith machine, using a four-count to lower the bar. The
exercise session was designed to affect a maximal amount of skeletal muscle but
also to mimic a state that is common to weight lifters.

Of course data is still coming in, but we are able to share some numbers on the
first five subjects. By analyzing the data, we find that (with a fancy
statistical test) we have high statistical power, meaning that we will end up
with significant results by the end of the study (20 subjects). Yes, stats can
turn us into veritable “swamis”, allowing us to “see into the
future” and not waste time on worthless studies. How many supplement
investigators do that?! It’s another benefit of having strong researchers at
the HNL. We’ve got evidence to be pretty excited about the possibility of actually
changing current nutrition recommendations for lifters, which is why I’m
sharing this info now. I have to reserve final judgment, however, for the date
my associates and I complete the study.

It’s also important to realize that we need to validate that the large muscle
groups of the shoulder girdle and lower body were actually damaged to some
extent from the exercise. To do this we took some of the blood from the OGTT,
spun it down in a centrifuge and tested the serum for creatine kinase (CK),
alanine aminotransferase (ALT), aspartate aminotransferase (AST) and lactate
dehydrogenase (LDH). These enzymes (notice the -ase suffix on each word; that
denotes an enzyme) are “spilled” from muscle tissue for a period of
3-7 days after hard eccentric exercise.(6) They suggest muscle trauma and our
subjects were, in fact “traumatized”.

The relatedness (or correlation) between fasting blood glucose and CK, for
example, was tested on two separate post-workout occasions, revealing
significant relationships (r = 0.54 to 0.75). These are moderate to strong
relationships between muscle damage and poor glucose usage. In other words,
when muscles are damaged, dietary carbs don’t leave the blood stream very well
(and enter the muscle tissue). Muscle soreness measurements add to the
evidence, also suggesting that damage was done (have YOU ever gotten really
sore from training?). They correlated moderately to highly with the CK results.

Clearly runners and cyclists need to replenish carb stores; they exhaust their
glycogen almost daily. Hence the high dietary carb recommendations. And
although many weight trainers insist carbs make them fat, they do need some for
similar reasons. But for most of us it’s really about growth as opposed to say,
boosted performance and if we’re not getting them into our sore muscles, where
are they going?

One answer could be adipose tissue. Yep, body fat is another recipient of blood
glucose. When insulin levels are high, fat cells grab up the blood borne
glucose – even more so than sore muscles, presumably. And what happens to
glucose once in a fat cell? You guessed it, fat building (lipogenesis). So now
we see a “double whammy” scenario when muscles are just too rocked to
accept blood glucose efficiently: First, they can’t recovery rapidly, failing
to optimally replenish their glycogen stores (and creating muscle fullness);
Second, the left over circulating glucose likely goes where it can, into body

What can be done about this problem that appears to be specific to weight
trainers? Well, one thing is to report it to the scientific community so
“experts” tone-down their “high carbs for all athletes”
recommendations. Another is to give some preliminary suggestions to athletes as
to when to eat plenty of carbs and when it might be better to reduce them.
Finally, we can search for nutrients that may help glucose tolerance so
bodybuilders can continue to induce muscle growth via “negatives” AND
recover maximally. THAT, my friends, is what we’re working on in the HNL right
now! Stay tuned for Part Two of “High Carbs for Everyone?” to get
practical suggestions and to see which compounds we’re testing and what they’re
doing for glucose metabolism!

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