Featured story December 4, 2015
We promise carbs aren't the enemy. In fact, they may be just what your body needs
Carbohydrates have gained a reputation for being anti weight-loss and preventing people from reaching their fitness goals – this is simply not true. It's important to include carbs in your diet whatever you're aiming for, be it weight loss, general fitness, building muscle or endurance training. However, the amount of carbs to eat and when, will depend on your fitness goals and the current stage in your journey.
At the start of a general fat loss program, I'd recommend restricting sugar and starch intake to a minimum. This will help boost your progress and "reset" your blood sugar control. It will be hard at first, but your body will eventually stop with those pesky 4pm sugar urges. For the first two weeks, focus on eating lots of fibrous vegetables (broccoli, asparagus, beetroot, cabbage, sprouts) before reintroducing some low GI starches, such as wholemeal bread, lentils and brown rice.
However, if you're at the stage in your weight loss journey where you've already lost all but the last few kilos, it's time to add the carbs back in. The best place to start eating them is in the meal after you exercise. Start with a medium sweet potato an hour or so after your finish your workouts, see how your body reacts, then go from there.
Squats, split squats, dumbbell rows and military presses. These exercises are large multi-muscle movements that induce a large metabolic cost and inspire weight loss.
It's important to eat sufficient amounts of carbs to provide your body with the necessary energy to carry out your usual exercise session as well as maintaining muscle growth and development. What is sufficient really depends on your genetic makeup and your activity levels. Start with around 80g of lower GI carbohydrates (brown pasta, wholegrains, legumes) spread throughout the day – say, a small handful or so with breakfast and lunch. This amount can then be adjusted depending on your energy levels (and of course what happens to your waistline). Timing a pre- and post-workout snack isn't really necessary for general fitness, just listen to your body's cues and eat when you're hungry.
Rowing, circuits, and othe fitness classes. These total body exercises promote circulation and dynamic movements.
The amount of carbs you eat before and after an exercise session is extremely important if you want to build muscle. Not only will carbs provide the energy you need to make it through the workout, they will also help reduce muscle breakdown during your workout. Carbs offer an insulin peak pre- and post-workout – insulin is an anabolic hormone that promotes protein synthesis by allowing glucose, creatine and amino acids to enter the muscle cell. In laymen's terms, coupling your carb with protein allows more amino acids to be present to start rebuilding the muscle that needs repairing after training. Start with around 30-50g of carbohydrates from a berry juice (blueberry works well) right before your workout. Around 1.5 hours after you train have roughly the same amount of carbohydrates from something low GI, such as quinoa.
Squats, chin-ups and arm dips will stimulate and build muscle mass.
Carbs form the basis of most endurance-based exercise, so you need quite a bit to excel. If you don't eat enough carbs before endurance-based activities such as cycling, swimming and running, your body loses the ability to maintain your blood sugar – known as 'hitting the wall'. It's especially beneficial to get carbohydrate timing right if you're doing competitions. For example, an endurance athlete should consider a snack around 90 minutes before and after their training session to boost both performance and recovery. 50g of carbs before and 50g of carbs after is an easy place from which to start understanding your performance needs and again, lower GI sources work best: sweet potatoes, brown rice, quinoa and oats.
Sprint intervals of your favourite activity, whether it's swimming, cycling or running.