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Carbohydrates- the bodybuilders secret to muscle growth

Carbohydrates are your body's main supply of fuel and provide the highest amount of energy to your cells better than any other source. Carbohydrates play an extremely important role in building muscle, but many people remain unaware of these bulking benefits.

The secret to incorporating carbs into your diet is to create a balance, which will bring you the physical results you desire. There are many questions surrounding what are the best types of carbohydrates to eat, when to eat them and how much to include in your diet. It can be confusing to know what's good for you! The truth is that it's easy to incorporate carbs into your bodybuilding diet and gain maximum muscle building results.

Good carbs vs. bad carbs

Carbohydrates are macronutrients and consist of the sugars, starches and fibres that make up whole food products such as fruits, vegetables, grains and dairy products. They are one of the top three ways your body makes energy.

Protein is dependant on decent supply of carbohydrates to work effectively within the body and is an important part of a bodybuilders diet. Carbs give energy to athletes training at intense physical levels and spare the use of precious proteins (to keep these to help build muscle mass).

Carbs are unfairly slammed by fashionable dieters and given a bad image in the media. While its true that some carbs are bad for you (let's call them the bad carbs!), the reality is that there are a lot of carbs that are extremely good for you and essential for your wellbeing. So how do you know which are the good carbs and the bad carbs? Its simple: If your diet consists of real, whole foods and you avoid packaged, overly processed foods (that have been stripped of fibre and nutrients and processed with additional fats, sugars and calories)- then you are on your way to making the right carb choices.

Other ways to tell if certain carbs are good or bad for you is to follow these simple guidelines:

Good Carbohydrates check list

  • High in a variety nutrients
  • Free from added sugars, fats
  • Naturally high in fibre
  • Low to moderate in calorie density
  • Very low to zero cholesterol and trans fat
  • Low in sodium content

Bad Carbohydrates check list

  • Contain very little nutrients
  • High in calorie count
  • Low in fiber
  • High in sodium, saturated fat and cholesterol
  • Full of refined sugars, or "natural" sugars such as honey and fruit juices

Simple and Complex Carbohydrates- what is the difference?

Good Carbohydrates are generally considered "complex carbs" which means they contain three or more sugars and are digested and absorbed at a slower rate than simple carbohydrates (being the bad carbs!). Simple carbs contain only one or two sugars and are basically empty calories which contribute to weight gain.

Both simple and complex carbohydrates act quite quickly as energy sources, however complex carbs provide a more sustained energy output which is ideal for those expelling large physical efforts in the gym. Rather than creating a quick sugar high, as simple carbs will produce, the prolonged energy giving complex carb will help your endurance and improve your gym performance.

So think about this next time you reach for that can of soda or donut! Instead, reach for fresh whole food snacks and buy less factory processed junk.

How many carbs should I eat in a day and when?

Carbohydrates formulated for bodybuilding are easy to digest. They help provide a steady source of energy during workouts and decrease recovery time post-training.

When trying to decide your ideal daily carb intake, there are a few factors that need to be considered. These include: body size, physical activity level, your fitness goals and also personal genetical factors. An average suggestion for carbohydrate intake is roughly 60% (of daily calories to come from carbs) and should satisfy most people. For athletes on a cutting program, the split is generally 40-50% carbohydrates, 25-30% protein, and 20-30% fat.

Stick to complex carbohydrates and eat small amounts of carbs, but more often. Its a good idea to have a serving of complex carbohydrates approximately 1 hour before your workout (to give you energy) and then straight after your meal (for an insulin spike). If you find you are putting on weight, stop eating carbs after 7pm.