Carbohydrate Timing: Strategy for Top Performance
You find yourself dragging your feet in the gym, completing fewer reps and shortening the range of motion on your toughest movements as your session unfolds. We all have days like this, when training energy plummets faster than a misplaced 25lb plate to the foot. Some workouts are marked by great eagerness followed by a sharp decline in training intensity. For some, the inspiration and enthusiasm needed to transform desire into dense muscle tissue cannot be generated at all – and forget about procuring growth-inducing muscle pumps. Without sufficient “oomph”, the best we can hope for is some general cardiovascular conditioning and muscle maintenance work.
Getting the Most From A Workout
The major objective of all lifters is to produce results: for example, a bigger bench, more repetitions on the squat, another inch on the arms, a few pounds off the waistline, better symmetry and proportion and, supporting all of the above, mind-numbingly intense workouts. The harder our training sessions are, the greater the results we expect to see.
The more work we can cram into each workout, the more receptive our muscles are to super-compensating and re-building in preparation for the next training onslaught.
In knowing that consistently high workout intensity will maximize our growth potential, we must strive to ensure each session is as intensive and progressive as possible – from the first rep to the last. It is, then, of critical importance to ensure that we are sufficiently equipped nutritionally to blast past our personal bests. Low training energy can usually be traced to one of two factors: poor motivation and/or a low carbohydrate intake. In many cases the latter influences the former, making optimal training intensity primarily contingent upon loading up on and ensuring a sustained intake and an adequate post-training supply of carbs, the preferred and most efficient fuel source for muscle strength and endurance.
Carbohydrates for Energy
Our increasingly busy lifestyles coupled with an ever-growing array of dietary trends have conspired to sidetrack us from the tried and tested nutritional principals that have enabled thousands of devoted lifters to build copious amounts of quality muscle. One nutritional basic that appears to have declined is the emphasis that was once placed on carbohydrate intake.
Let’s get one thing straight: no fuel source comes close to procuring and sustaining the anaerobic energy production needed for maximal physical exertion than does carbohydrates.
At 4 calories per gram, carbohydrates, when consumed in a targeted manner, are stored as muscle and liver glycogen, ready to be liberated whenever our muscles are called on to respond to the demands of intensive training. Without sufficient glycogen, protein may be converted to fuel (an inefficient, catabolic, process that depletes muscle mass), which ultimately leaves us feeling weaker and looking smaller.
Carbs are also preferentially used to boost mental acuity; too few and we feel sluggish and may lack motivation – states hardly conducive to producing hardcore training intensity. Furthermore, studies have shown that when we are low on carbs, the liver releases the catabolic hormone cortisol, which degrades muscle and interferes with the training recovery process.
As well as providing the raw materials needed to train harder for longer and to sustain a steady supply of glycogen to ensure continuous muscle pumping, carbohydrates dictate the extent to which our muscles will recover from exhaustive training sessions; to replenish our muscles when they are most receptive to storing this valuable energy nutrient (post-workout), a quality carb supplement has for many become mandatory.
Carbs are King
By now, it’s clear that carbohydrates, not caffeine-based energy drinks, protein or fat, must be preferentially utilized to promote quality workouts. Yes, other nutrients have their place (including those found in many of today’s most effective pre-workout drinks), but for training energy, carbs are king. The question is, with many carbohydrate types, which are best for ensuring optimal workout performance? Are all carbs created equal? The answer is a resounding “no”. To achieve the most from proper carb consumption we must address which sources are superior and how best to supplement them, before, during, and after training.
The Many Faces of Carbohydrates
To underscore just how critical carb consumption is for human energy production it is worth noting the diversity of roles this energy macronutrient adopts. As well as being a major source of metabolic energy to enhance human performance, carbs…
- Comprise the structural material cellulose (dietary fiber)
- Are one of three essential components of DNA and RNA
- Serve as a component of the energy transport molecule ATP
Indeed carbs support life in a structural sense as much as they are used to power it nutritionally.
Chemically referred to as saccharides (or sugars, if they are relatively small), carbs vary in complexity from the simple monosaccharides (the smallest possible sugar unit; for example, glucose and fructose) through to the complex disaccharides, oligosaccharides and polysaccharides. Though the various carbohydrate types are equally designed to produce metabolic energy to power human activity, several factors converge to regulate their individual effects: the amount of carbohydrate consumed, when it is consumed, and the rate at which carbs enter the bloodstream as glucose. The real key to maximizing the energizing potential of carbs is to take a variety of sources in precise amounts determined by how active we are, have been, or will be.
Carbs to Avoid
Loading up on simple sugars (more rapidly assimilated compared to the complex type) at 9:00 in the evening is, for example, not a sensible approach; carb intake at this time will likely lead to fat storage (as our post training intake will have been met and our muscle and liver glycogen stores are likely to be full). Subsequent high blood glucose levels may promote a rapid rise in the nutrient storage hormone insulin, leading to high blood fat levels and, ultimately, unwanted weight gain. Over time, an unwarranted release of insulin will result in insulin resistance. Insulin levels may therefore begin to drop with each successively abundant carb feeding and we may begin to experience elevated triglycerides, low HDL cholesterol (the preferred type) and high blood pressure. Any bodybuilding progress we can expect will at this point be negated.
Choosing Your Carbs
To ensure our training performance is on point and our blood sugar levels are balanced so as to promote a favorable body composition and good health, we require the perfect blend of carbohydrates ideally suited to our specific training and lifestyle needs. For the average beer bellied couch potato, a balance of complex carbs and fibrous types such as broccoli and asparagus early in the day will work best. For them, simple sugars (found in sweets and white bread, for example) are largely to be avoided.
For the hard training bodybuilder (who has an abundance of insulin receptors and an ability to better partition nutrients), carb intake must be substantial, varied, be quickly absorbed, and be non-bloating and non-cramping, and be targeted for maximum performance and recovery. With this precept in mind, the perfect blend would contain a combination of carbs known for both their ability to sustain intensive activity and to rapidly supply muscle glycogen for replenishment and recovery, while ensuring a low osmotic pressure gradient (where less water is needed to support carb absorption) to facilitate rapid duodenal uptake, and delivery to working muscles.
Molecular weight is used to determine how large a molecule is. Applied to carb consumption, the bigger the carbohydrate molecule, the more sustaining this highly branched, ultra-complex carbohydrate will be; which means rapidly-supplied, longer lasting energy and elevated performance for intense training sessions can be achieved.
These high molecular weight carbs minimize osmolarity, which allows each carb molecule to move through the stomach and into the small intestine significantly faster than less complex carb sources like dextrose and maltodextrin.
ALLMAX Nutrition’s new electrolyte-infused CARBION+ takes advantage of this fact by supplying six carbohydrate sources of varying complexities with high osmolarity rates, all with the ultimate objective of providing reliable, rapidly absorbed, hard-working carbs for performance and recovery.
CARBION+ The Perfect Carb Blend
At 200,000 g/mol (a unit of measurement used to express amounts of a chemical substance), the highly-branched carb, Ultra High Molecular Waxy Maize, features prominently in CARBION+, as do other heavy hitters – Cluster Cyclic Dextrin, High Molecular Weight Dextrin Polysaccharide, Rice Polysaccharide, Digestion Resistant Dextrin and Potato Polysaccharide. Combined, these exclusive carb sources provide an unprecedented effect, allowing you to power through the toughest workouts without the insulin spike and energy depletion other fast-acting carbs promote. Taken after training, CARBION+, rapidly replenishes glycogen stores to facilitate optimal recovery.
Just because a carb is quickly assimilated doesn’t mean it can be used to its fullest potential. Enter the one-two knockout punch of CARBION+’s Ionic Hydration Complex (comprising electrolytes sodium, magnesium, potassium and calcium, which share a common membrane with carbohydrates thus ensuring more carbs are supplied when taken in concert with these important minerals) to further elevate performance and an Advanced Carb Utilization Complex (featuring prickly pear extract, bitter melon, D-pinitol and Vanadium) designed to enhance insulin receptor sensitivity to drive more carbs into muscle tissue to offset depletion while promoting consistently high energy levels.
To elicit the skin bursting pumps and intensity needed to maximize workout performance we must be sure to consume a prefect ratio of desirable carb sources prior to training. In doing so, our glycogen stores will be suitably crammed with this energizing nutrient, which also means protein will be spared to perform its rebuilding role.
A bodybuilder’s best friend, carbohydrates, are needed before, during and after training to ensure steady gains in lean muscle tissue.
To further heighten this super saturation, protein sparing effect, and to ensure workout performance does not dwindle as we progress through our session, it is equally important to refuel with carbs every 15-20 minutes during our workout, with CARBION+ being a perfect non-bloating and non-cramping solution (side effects which you find in many other carb drinks).
Finally, post-training carb replenishment is a must if proper recovery is to commence. Directly following each workout we must prioritize carb consumption to spike insulin levels so as to refill glycogen stores while enabling post-training protein to be rapidly transported to muscle receptor sites to more efficiently promote protein synthesis.
Now consider, are your carbs cutting it?
- Tomiyama, J., et al. (2010). Low calorie dieting increases cortisol. Psychosom Med. 72 (4): 357-64