We all know that what you eat is important. But what about when you eat and when to eat carbs? How important is carbohydrate timing?
The body better handles carbohydrates during and after physical activity, as well as when levels of fitness are high and body fat levels are lower (15% or less for men and 20% or less for women).
In saying this, higher-carb situations include:
- Relatively intense physical activity (i.e. resistance training)
- Relatively frequent physical activity (i.e daily workouts, active job)
- A high level of physical fitness
- Lower level of body fat
When we look at lower-carb situations, this will include:
- Low or no activity (sedentary)
- Lower levels of physical fitness
- Higher levels of body fat
When it comes to carbohydrate timing around training and its impact on anabolism, performance and recovery; there are 2 main reasons why increasing carbohydrate intake around training may be beneficial”
- It enhances the anabolic response
- Replenishes muscle glycogen stores
Low glycogen has shown in studies to REDUCE STRENGTH whilst also increasing protein breakdown during high intensity resistance training(1,2). This means that the quality and output that you get when under a carbohydrate restricted state is lowered as compared to when you are having the recommended carbohydrate intake – which for strength sports and bodybuilding os between 4 to 7 grabs her kg per day. This is not the end all or be all as individual differences will still be considered when putting together a persons meal plan.
The anabolic response can be INCREASED if carbohydrates are co-ingested with low doses of EAAs around training. This suggests that carbs DO NOT provide any additional benefits if protein targets are met. In general when it comes to carbohydrate timing, dong so around training is most likely to benefit leaner individuals performing a higher volume of work, because they are at greater risk of muscle loss.
When we look at replenishing glycogen stores after a workout, as long as you consume enough carbohydrates after a workout, glycogen re-synthesis remains the same and there is no difference between whether this comes from higher GI carbs or not.
For most people consuming enough carbohydrates over the course of the day is going to be more important than the timing of those carbohydrates.
1.Leveritt M & Abernethy PJ. Effects of carbohydrate restriction on strength performance. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 1999;13, (1), 52-7.
2. Lemon PW, Mullin JP: Effect of initial muscle glycogen levels on protein catabolism during exercise. Journal of Applied Physiology. 1980, 48 (4): 624-9.
3. Clean Health Fitness Institute. (2020). Performance Nutrition Coach Level 2. CHFI.