Killing The Carbohydrate Myth.
Do Carbs Interfere with Fat loss?
One of the best things about my job with AST is the constant interaction I have with hundreds of drug-free bodybuilders all over the world – you are one hell of a dedicated, disciplined group of people. It’s a pleasure conversing via e-mail with each and every one of you. However, if there is one universal misconception nearly all bodybuilders seem to have, it’s regarding carbohydrate consumption.
Most bodybuilders are more scared of carbohydrates than they are of death and taxes. For no good reason, many bodybuilders drastically limit their intake of carbohydrates to the point where their calorie intake resembles that of a nine year-old female gymnast. When bodybuilders do this, they lose a lot of hard earned muscle and it becomes impossible to make improvements to their physique.
Bodybuilders need carbohydrates in their diet to build muscle and get shredded, and they need a lot more than they think. In fact, if you perform intense aerobic work and/or weight train daily, I could almost guarantee you are not eating enough quality carbohydrates. Increasing the volume of your carbohydrate foods will only mean bigger, leaner muscles. Let me provide you with some “real world” evidence of what the correct amount of carbohydrates can do to your physique.
Skip La Cour, the most accomplished natural bodybuilder on the planet, followed my carbohydrate recommendations this year. He adopted a total new approach to his carbohydrate intake. The result of this was an unprecedented 4th Heavyweight and 2nd Overall title at the 2002 Team Universe and, at 40 years of age, a lifetime best condition. Forget Sergio Oliva, Skip La Cour is The Myth! Sergio would have wept like a baby if he’d witnessed Skip’s incredible drug-free condition that night in New York City.
Another example is the AST 2002 Overall World Championship winner Matt Vinopal. Matt e-mailed me his diet a few months out from his end-point photo shoot. I’d met Matt a year previously at the first AST Max-OT Training Camp. At just over six feet, Matt is a big, strong, well-muscled guy. Yet one glance at his diet told me his caloric intake was way below what it should have been. He was already consuming a lot of protein and had his essential fats nicely covered. So the answer was to increase his fat-free carbohydrate intake using whole foods. The result was nothing short of mind blowing. Matt kept his size and came in full, ripped, rock hard and healthy. Matt was the undisputed winner, it was clear for all to see.
Now I’m going to present to you some science that demonstrates carbohydrates are not the satanic entity than many bodybuilders assume. This research applies directly to bodybuilders and shows that proper consumption of carbohydrates will enhance your results not impede them.
The complex metabolic interaction between carbohydrates and exercise is one of the most frequently overlooked aspects of exercise physiology by self-proclaimed “fitness gurus” the world over. Recently, a group of French-Canadian researchers examined the fate of carbohydrate consumption with and without the impact of exercise .
These scientists assessed the metabolic fate of a carbohydrate meal (pasta) consumed by six healthy subjects after a period of low intensity exercise, moderate intensity exercise and inactivity. The subjects were given a meal of 150 or 400 g of pasta after performing a low intensity exercise session (bike pedaling at well below 50% of VO2 max) or moderate intensity exercise (60% VO2 max). The subjects were also fed these meals after a period of inactivity (no exercise).The metabolic fate of the carbohydrate meal was determined using a labeled metabolic tracer within the carbohydrate structure. Exactly where these carbohydrates ended up within the body was studied for eight hours after consumption.
The results demonstrated that when the subjects exercised at a moderate intensity workload then ate the pasta meal, the fat burning (oxidation) process was not inhibited. In fact, the carbohydrates did nothing to the elevation in fat burning produced from exercise. The subjects all experienced an increase in fat utilization from exercise despite consuming the pasta meal. And remember, this research only examined moderate intensity exercise; high intensity exercise will stoke the metabolism and cause far greater fat utilization. The misconception that “carbohydrate consumption after exercise will switch off the fat burning process” has been blown right out of the water.
Next, when the carbohydrate meals were consumed after exercise, glucose oxidation was significantly reduced. In fact, when the subjects ate the large pasta meal after the moderate intensity exercise session, glucose oxidation was completely suppressed. This lack of glucose oxidation and the fact that a large positive glycogen balance was observed in these subjects indicates that carbohydrates consumed after exercise are exclusively taken up by muscle. Bodybuilders take note; all these findings indicate that carbohydrates consumed after exercise are used exclusively for muscle recovery, repair and growth! From the data, it appears that the more intense the exercise, the more active this shuttling of carbohydrates into muscle becomes.
Another pertinent finding from this research was that after exercise, fat storage is completely suppressed. From the data, it appears that after exercise, the conversion of nutrients such as carbohydrates and protein into fat is virtually impossible. In this study, even though a large amount of carbohydrates (400 grams) was consumed after exercise, none of it was stored as fat, the vast majority was absorbed by very hungry and very receptive muscles.
One final important finding from this study was that when the subjects ate the small pasta serving without exercising, none of the meal was stored as fat. The small carbohydrate meal did not “switch off” the fat burning process. Unlike the notion that many “bodybuilding experts” claim, small amounts of carbs consumed throughout the day are not converted into fat, nor do they switch off the fat burning process. The misconception that “carbs are converted to fat” is destroyed. To further support this, remember that despite the subjects eating the larger pasta meal without performing any exercise, only a very miniscule 4% of the total meal was stored as fat! However, this carbohydrate meal did suppress fat utilization for several hours.
The bottom line is that while a large carbohydrate meal won’t be converted and stored as fat, if eaten without previously performing exercise it will prevent fat utilization for several hours.
From this research, three important points regarding carbohydrate metabolism have emerged:
1. The conversion and storage of nutrients as fat is totally suppressed following exercise. Even a large serving of carbohydrates is directed toward muscle and not stored as fat if consumed after exercise.
2. Carbohydrates consumed after exercise do not inhibit the fat burning process that exercise invokes. Small meals containing carbs are not converted into fat, nor do they interfere with the fat burning process.
3. Carbohydrates consumed after exercise are used directly to fuel growth and repair of muscle tissue. Do not forget that glycogen accumulation is an anabolic trigger of muscle growth.
In summary, the vast amount of published research in the area of carbohydrate metabolism shows that it is extremely difficult for intelligent carbohydrate consumption to interfere with the fat loss process, and when carbohydrates are consumed at the right time they enhance recovery and muscle growth.