In this article I’ll try to explain what carbohydrates are, where we can find them and what their function in bodybuilding is. You’ll find out which ones are the best to build muscle mass, what happens when we eat too much of them and how much to consume to build muscle or burn fat
What are carbohydrates
Carbohydrates also called carbs or just sugars are the component of food. They are the main source and provide the energy in a fastest way for the human body.
What is their function
Carbohydrates have three main functions in bodybuilding. They:
- Provide energy to train,
- Stimulate growth,
- Fill up our muscles.
Carbs are the preferred source of energy by our body. Once eaten, they are broken down and converted into blood sugar (glucose) and then used as a fuel.
The rest connects with water and is stored inside our muscles in a form of a glycogen. It makes muscles look bigger and fuller and is used by them as energy when we lift weights or perform any other type of high intensity training or activity.
Another function of carbs is stimulating growth. After digestion our pancreas starts to produce insulin – the most powerful anabolic hormone.
Main sources of carbohydrates
There are 7 main sources of carbohydrates:
- Grains (rice, oats, quinoa, buckwheat, barley, cous cous);
- Fruit (bananas, apples ,oranges, pineapple …);
- Pastas (spaghetti, macaroni, penne, etc…);
- Starchy vegetables (white potatoes, sweet potatoes, peas, corn…);
- Breads (bread, baps, tortillas, wraps, baguettes);
- Some dairy products (milk, yoghurt);
- Sugar and its products and other junk food (sweets, sodas, chocolate bars, cakes, etc…).
Of course there are more foods and products containing carbs however these above are the most common.
The best sources of carbs for bodybuilding and general health
The best carbs for bodybuilders, other sportsmen and even general population come from natural, whole, unprocessed foods like:
- Brown or wild rice,
- Potatoes, especially sweet,
- Oats, cous-cous, quinoa.
These products are full of nutrients and are very dense in carbohydrates. It means that they will provide us with more energy for much longer than processed food and are really beneficial for general health.
Processed food isn’t very healthy. Most of it is made in factories, purified or even completely artificial. It contains refined sugar, flavor enhancers and other additives which are harmful and are very hard for our body to digest. Prolonged consumption of it might cause obesity, diabetes or different health issues. For these reasons we should base our diet mostly on whole, non-processed products not only for bodybuilding but also for general health. Of course you don’t have to be so strict, life could be boring without sweets, burgers or other fast-food. Just make sure you consume them in moderation.
Side effects of eating too much carbs
When we consume too much carbs at the time, especially junk food like sugar, sweets, coke or other sodas for example our body produces too much insulin too fast what suppresses (holds down) the production of human growth hormone.
Furthermore if our muscles are already full with glycogen the rest of blood sugar (glucose) will be stored in a form of fat underneath our skin. In other words we will be getting fatter. Thankfully this process is reversible. To burn fat we simply cut down on eating carbohydrates – our body starts to use fat as energy then.
How much to consume
To build muscle mass we should consume around:
- 2 grams of carbohydrates per pound (lb) of body weight or
- 4 g per kilogram (kg) of BW
So a bodybuilder who weights around 100kg or 200lbs should eat roughly around 400 grams of carbohydrates each day.
To burn fat we should cut the amount of carbs in half or even more.
Don’t try to be very precise with numbers. You have to see what works for you. Some people grow eating less than that where other individuals need much more. The same is with burning fat.
Carbohydrates are the best source of energy in bodybuilding and are the main part of muscle building diet. Without them we couldn’t lift as heavy weight and train so hard and therefore we wouldn’t grow.
The best types of carbs, which stimulate growth the most and supply the energy for longer comes from whole foods like brown or wild rice rather than white; fruit or honey rather than sweets and sugar; oats instead cornflakes, wholegrain or whole-wheat bread instead white and so on.
It doesn’t mean that we can’t touch any other products. They are very tasty and great as a post workout nutrition. People who struggle to gain weight often add them to the menu because of their high content of calories. Others eat them because they just like this type of food.
However to train with the highest possible intensity and increase the production of anabolic hormones by the body, what will result with the fastest and the biggest growth of muscle tissue, cut junk food like sweets, sodas and fast-food to the minimum. Stick to whole sources of carbs and make sure to leave some room for protein, fats and water. All macronutrients are essential to make muscles grow.