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Science & Nutrition

The Truth About Carbs

When you’re training to build size, strength and maximum muscle mass, carbs are an essential part of your nutritional plan. Quite simply, it’s very difficult to add significant levels of muscle while on a restricted or low carbohydrate diet.

Some trainers follow a mass building program indefinitely – they may be trying to get as big and strong as they can. This is often the case for strength and power athletes like rugby players, weight lifters or power lifters. For these types of athletes carbs should be a big part of their diet year round.

Other athletes cycle through a mass and strength gaining phase to build muscle followed by a cutting up phase where they aim to retain as much muscle size and strength as possible while dropping body fat. Good examples include competition bodybuilders, martial artists, boxers or any athlete that competes in a weight class. Many regular gym goers also practice this type of approach where they look to build mass and strength during the winter months and get more lean and muscular during summer so they look good on the beach. For these types of athletes, cycling through higher carb intake during mass building and lower carb intake during the cutting phase is generally the recommended and proven approach.

Types of Carbs

Carbs take the form of simple sugars, the kind you find in table sugar, and complex carbs, like the starch you find in potatoes or rice. And there are good carbs and bad carbs. No matter what type of diet you are following, you should be predominantly choosing good carbs and avoiding bad carbs. So what’s the difference?

Bad Carbs

For the purposes of this article we define Bad Carbs as any type of carbohydrate food that has been highly processed. These types of carbs are usually digested very quickly and spike insulin production to high levels in your body. While this is ok now and then, a constant intake of these insulin spiking foods eventually can cause health issues and will reduce your training results. Examples of highly processed carb foods to avoid include:

• White flour and products made with flour • White bread • Cakes • Biscuits • Soft drinks • Sports drinks • Fruit juice • Sweets • Ice cream • Syrups • Pasta

Good Carbs

Good Carbs on the other hand tend to be the unprocessed carbohydrate foods that are as close to their natural state as possible. Generally this means starchy vegetables and fruits. Whole grains are also OK but many people can suffer from inflammation symptoms when they eat too much grain based foods. These good carbs are generally slower digesting than there highly processed counterparts so don’t tend to spike insulin as much to keep your metabolism in balance. Examples of good carbs include:

• Sweet potato • Normal potato – moderation • Pumpkin • Carrots • Peas • Beans and Legumes – moderation • Wild and Brown Rice • White rice – moderation • Fruit – moderation • Wholegrain and sourdough bread – moderation

Limiting your intake of “bad carbs” whilst correctly utilising these “good carbs” as a part of a balanced and well rounded nutrition plan will give you the most out of your training efforts and allow you to build the body you work so hard for.

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