Carbohydrates, the food group that is vilified and glorified in equal measure, play an important role in our daily eating habit. There’s no question that they should be part of a regular diet, as so many trustworthy authorities underline. But just how much of them should you take; or should you even take them at all?
The role of carbohydrates in the body
To understand the importance of carbs you first have to appreciate their role in the body. Carbohydrates provide the fuel for the body’s varied processes. They are broken down to provide glucose which is required by every dividing cell in the body. Regardless of the form or quantity, the end product is often the same- glucose. When provided in excess, the extra glucose is stored as glycogen, mostly in the muscle tissues. When the glycogen stores are full, the glucose that remains is converted to fat.
Carbohydrates in Bodybuilding
The role of protein in building muscle has been established beyond any reasonable doubt. The rule has been succinct and simple- take protein, gain muscle. But the role of this particular group is not effective in isolation. It’s true that amino acids form the building blocks for muscle, but only when carbohydrates are in the picture. Think of carbs as the catalyst that helps your muscles make the most of your dietary protein.
For a regular lifter, their glucose needs are higher than a regular person. This means their RDM increases. This increase can only be offset by taking more carbohydrates. They provide the energy your muscle needs to function at optimum level. It’s the reason why most pre-workout formulas are carbohydrate based.
It’s true that taking a lot of carbohydrates will lead to weight gain. If there is an excess in intake, the result will be fat gain, which is the exact opposite goal. It therefore matters the nature of the carbohydrates taken. When they are the slow-digesting type, as in complex carbohydrates, then the benefits can be enjoyed without risking any gains in fat.
The best way to eat your carbs is to pair them up with protein. The two have a synergistic relationship. While there is some truth in how the body can use up protein for energy instead of carbs, taking a protein only diet is harmful. The end product of protein metabolism is ammonia, which the kidneys have to excrete. Too much protein overwhelms the kidneys, and there is no happy ending to that.
Diets that include servings of carbohydrates and proteins, in the measures that align to the goals of the bodybuilder, are the ideal kind. Insist on carbs that are low in sugar, and high in fiber, as they offer more than just glucose for your cells. The fats don’t have to be vilified either. Healthy fats as those found in nuts, seeds, avocados and coconuts should appear regularly in your diet.
There is enough scientific evidence that elaborates the causal relationships between carbohydrate intake and muscle gain if you care to look. The key is just managing your portions, timing your intake, and selecting the right kinds. That is all.
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