Are Carbs Needed For Muscle?
October 17, 2009
Wow! There were some awesome comments to the last blog post! Thank each of you for your feedback! For every question that was posed, I will either post an answer in a future post, or I will reply to you directly.
Today’s post is on carbohydrate consumption.
If you want to maintain or build muscle (and you do want to do at least one of those), you have to have sufficient carbohydrates in your diet. Why do you need carbohydrates?
1. For energy. They are the body’s preferred fuel for high intensity exercise. Carbs are stored as glycogen in the muscles and liver. Also, a small amount of carbohydrate energy is in the blood stream as glucose. Without sufficient carbohydrates your body begins to lean more heavily on other macronutrients (fat and protein) for energy. Fat and protein convert to energy more slowly than carbohydrates do. Therefore, when you are carbohydrate depleted, your exercise intensity, as compared to the intensity of your exercise when you are loaded with carbs, will decrease.
Think of it this way. Consider all of the food you eat to be fuel, kind of like coal in the old-time locomotives.
Did you ever see a movie in which there were guys shoveling coal from a huge coal pile into a furnace to power a steam engine? In your body, you have 3 coal piles. A carbohydrate pile, a fat pile, and a protein pile. In high intensity exercise, really fast, strong guys are shoveling fast burning coal from the carbohydrate pile into your body’s energy furnace, and this causes the furnace to burn HOT. When the carb pile begins to run low or it runs out, slower guys shovel slow burning coal from the fat pile, and really sluggish guys shovel slow burning, slightly damp coal from the protein pile. The fat and protein keep your energy furnace burning, but it doesn’t burn as hot or as intensely as when the fast, efficient burning carbohydrates were supplying the energy.
So, for powerful, muscle enhancing workouts, get your carbs!
2. As a protein sparer. If your carbohydrate levels drop, either through diet or because of prolonged exercise, your body will generate glucose from your body’s protein stores (muscle). In the extreme, this will cause a noticeable decrease in muscle mass.
In other words, if you want to maintain or build muscle, maintain your carbohydrate levels! Also, for those attempting to build muscle, if you go on an extremely low calorie diet, your body will eat its muscle regardless of whether or not you’re consuming a ton of protein. To build muscle, you’ve got to eat, and you need your carbs!
3. As a metabolic primer. Substances generated during the body’s breakdown of carbohydrates are used when your body burns fat (fat oxidation). In other words, for the body to breakdown and use fat as an energy source, you have to have some carbohydrates in your diet.
This piece of information is more directed to those that want to lose fat. Eat a balanced diet for the most efficient and healthy fat loss. Reduce your daily caloric intake a bit, and exercise to increase your daily caloric deficit.
4. As fuel for your central nervous system. Your central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) requires an uninterrupted supply of carbohydrate so that it can function properly. Under normal conditions the central nervous system uses blood glucose almost exclusively as its fuel. In cases of prolonged low carbohydrate intake, the brain adapts after about 8 days and uses fat as an alternative fuel.
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