A Dummies Guide to Optimizing  Carbs

NIK VASILYEV | MAR 29, 2018

We’ve all been conditioned to think that carbs are bad for our lean bodies. This is thanks to media, celebrities, articles, and fad diets. The reality is that the body uses carbs for various important functions. Knowing when to have your carbs can optimize results for weight management and performance.

Housekeeping Point

All carbohydrates are broken down by the body into glucose, the body’s preferred energy source. When the body does not get glucose from carbohydrates, it kicks into less efficient ways of getting its glucose: breaking down fat cells or protein cells (both ingested and stored).

Let’s get into it.

The Morning

Have you ever tried to get through the morning fasted? Or tried a low carb diet? Did you feel a little zombie-like in the morning? You’ve just taken away your body’s favorite energy source (glucose) and your body is cursing you for it. Low blood sugar levels stop the brain from operating efficiently and halt your nervous system from operating effectively. You’ve essentially told your body that you’re not giving it food and to “figure it out”.

When you wake up in the morning, your body is in a catabolic state trying to figure out where to pull energy from. If you don’t address this state, your body may break down  lean muscle for energy. In addition to this, your brains is groggy as a result of glucose shortage. Therefore, RYU Connector Nik V suggests eating a breakfast with both protein and carbohydrates, which can assist the body with both problems. Protein brings your body out of the catabolic state and carbohydrates assist in regulating blood sugar levels so that your body is not looking to its muscle tissue for energy.

So have some carbs in the morning, so long as it’s paired with a protein source.

Pre-Workout: Glycogen Stores for Power/ Heavy Workouts

You’re getting pumped up for your workout and ready to smash it! Great! But know what your goal is when you’re heading to the gym.

If you’re goal is to improve your strength, you definitely need some sugar. As previously covered, glucose is the body’s preferred energy source. If you’re getting ready for a heavy workout, have some simple sugars. Fruits or a few gummies. In this case, you actually don’t want to touch grains or fats. Both ingredients will slow down your body’s ability to produce glucose…which defeats the purpose of why you had the carbs in the first place.

High performance – simple carbs.

If the goal is strictly fat-loss, you can skip the carbs but have some source of protein so that your body isn’t burning through your lean muscle.

Post-Workout: Recovery Glycogen Refill

You’ve just finished a gruesome workout. You’re drained and hungry! Good news: your body needs carbs and protein.

Carbs are digested and transported directly into your muscle tissue as glycogen stores; energy for the next activity. Assuming you worked hard during your workout, your glycogen stores should be depleted, so your body is literally not at peace until those are refilled. Once those are filled up, your body gets right into recovery mode; that’s where the protein comes in. If you’re just having a protein shake without carbs, your body may break down that protein into glucose and use it to refill those energy stores…kind of a waste of protein don’t you think? Eat some carbs!

Pre-Bedtime: For Better Sleep

Here’s the thing- we stress and work throughout the day. Your sleep is your body’s time to heal and recover. In scientific terms, your body switches to an anabolic state at night. This is a very hard state to achieve if you don’t have any carbs going through your system. Sometimes the body needs a little insulin spike to get into that nice relaxing state. Have you ever had a food coma? Exhibit A.  If you are having a tough time relaxing and falling asleep, have some complex carbohydrates, like grains with a little added fat to slow down digestion. The result? A peaceful sleep and amazing recovery of your hard worked muscles and nervous system.

Carbs are not evil; especially if you know how to use them to your advantage.