When’s the best time to eat carbohydrates? We are going to fill you in on everything you need to know about eating this macronutrient.
Carbohydrates represent one of the main energy sources in our diet, alongside fats and proteins, even though they are often pointed to as being damaging foods that cause weight gain.
Can you lose fat whilst eating carbohydrates?
This is one of the questions that is most frequently asked by those of us that worry about staying in good health while bettering our body shape.
Generally speaking, there is no interaction that removes carbohydrates while boosting fat loss
To tell the truth, high carbohydrate diets are not in themselves a problem. It goes without saying that nobody should be eating an uncontrolled amount of this nutrient if there is no specific goal (sportsperson) but instead should adapt the calorific quantity to fit their needs.
A vast number of diets give you terms to follow which may lead you to believe that calories don’t need to be counted. However, once you really get into the details, you’ll see that they really do matter… 🙄
What type of carbohydrate should you choose?
It’s also important to know the types of carbohydrate that you should be choosing, as not all of them have the same characteristics and properties.
A good place to start would be opting for foods which have a high-fibre content, therefore giving us really important results such as energy, slowing down digestion and giving us the feeling of being full as well as having a low gluceimic index (although this can prove to be questionable matrix).
Just mentioning the word “flour” in a paleo club would be immediate grounds for expulsion…
Foods which have the highest carbohydrate density, such as a rice and pasta, potatoes, sweet potatoes (sweet potato is considered paleo, funnily enough…), cereals like oats, wheat…, can definitely form part of a healthy diet.
Provided that we don’t have any known allergy, there is no need to eliminate gluten from our diet without any given reason
The carbohydrate meal myth
A vast majority of the population would probably agree, and even approve of, the following mythical diet that we have all heard passed down through generations:
“Eat your breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper…”
And, if we were asked to give examples of foods to fit with this saying, we might choose: …”whole-wheat cereals for breakfast, followed by a carbohydrate-rich lunch including rice or pasta, reducing carbohydrate intake to the minimum in the late afternoon snack and taking it out completely at dinner…”.
Well I’m sorry to have to break the bad news to you: this mythical saying really doesn’t work out in the way that our grandmothers promised us. Furthermore, depending on each person’s lifestyle, it could be that the opposite would be more beneficial.
Where did this myth come from?
The conclusion that we could all come to might go something like this: “… if you don’t burn off carbohydrates they’ll turn to fat…” and “…our metabolism slows down through the day…” However, it’s well known that in order for carbohydrates to trace the metabolic pathway and be converted into fat (in the process known as De Novo Lipogenesis) certain conditions have to be met in addition to being infrequent in human beings.
The other reason is often down to sensitivity to insulin regulated by circadian rhythms (controlling our internal body clock), forcing our body to work harder during the first part of the day, in order to reduce hormonal activity as nighttime gets closer.
Now that we’ve cleared up this myth about not being able to eat carbs after 6pm
What about if I’m in calorie deficit?
Even in a hypo calorific scenario, the premise can definitely still be a bit “up in the air” or in limbo, given that if you burn more calories than you use, you won’t gain fat… Furthermore…”if I train late, I eat carbohydrates after my workout…”
If you’re a sportsperson, you shouldn’t cut out carbohydrates
Carbs shouldn’t be pushed aside: they form an essential part of a balanced diet for any sportsperson
Although we should also bear in mind that when we eat carbohydrates with the aim of pushing ourselves further in our goals, we should additionally be controlling the quantity and quality of these nutrients, even more so if our goal is to stay at a certain weight for a competition category, or if we want to develop certain training strategies, such as working out on an empty stomach.
What should a performance athlete be eating?
When should you consume carbohydrates?
As we said, carbohydrates are essential in any sportsperson’s diet, due to the obvious help they provide in boosting physical performance. In this way, the times suggested below can be followed as a recommendation, by spreading out carbohydrate intake over the course of the day taking into account the following times:
Before doing sport
Consuming carbohydrates a few hours before the physical effort can also be vital because it allows us to keep our energy level up for a longer period of time. Furthermore, this nutrient can prove very useful in keeping up mental performance, demonstrating a fostering of concentration. This is arguably among the most important factors for a sportsperson, as it allows for better decision making and faster reactions.
The ideal carbohydrate for this phase would be a slow release carb, giving us gradual energy such as oatmeal.
A strong upside to carbs is the delayed onset of tiredness, which is why it’s often important to take them during your workout routine or sports session, in the form of an isotonic energy drink, to keep our energy reserves where they need to be and delay the onset of fatigue.
Through a combination of fast release carbohydrates alongside mineral salts, we can be sure to allow for replacement of mineral salts (hydration) and the continued storage of good glucose levels.
Once we have finished our training session, the time comes to recover our energy and lost hydrates to boost recovery. Both foods and drinks with a high level of carbohydrate content help muscular recovery, as they replace our body’s glucose and glycogen levels. This helps us to be prepared for our next routine and perform to the fullest.
Once we have finished our training session, one of the best options we can choose is to drink a blended, liquid meal made from carbohydrates and protein, in a 2:1 ratio. Amylopectine and isolated milk-based whey would be a wise choice.
As we have seen, the conclusion that can be drawn in terms of which factors are the most important in carbohydrate intake are, whether on the one hand we look at the moment that we choose to do physical activity, with a focus on boosting and maximising performance and recovery; or on the other hand, look at the topic from a nutritional point of view, keeping up the energy balance depending on our goal, carbohydrates can be consumed as part of any meal..
- Everything you need to know about post-workout carbohydrates
- Weight loss: Should I cut down on fats or carbs?