Your Guide to Post-Workout Carbs
During the early 2000s, low-carb diets rose to popularity with an estimated 18% of the American population using one type of low-carb diet at one point. Over the years, medical communities have denounced low-carb diets as being dangerous to health, but people are still wary of consuming carbs daily, particularly after training with the assumption that it blunts fat loss and causes the body to store fat. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Carbs replenish glycogen stores
One of the main reasons for consuming carbs post-workout is to replenish glycogen stores that have been depleted during a workout. When you train, your body taps into its primary fuel source which is muscle glycogen. Glycogen is the stored form of glucose or long strings of glucose molecules.
When the glycogen chain is broken down for fuel, glucose is used to generate ATP. ATP is critical for muscle contractions, which is why post-workout carbs are so important.
“How many grams of carbs should I consume post-workout?”
Studies show that consuming fast carbs—or carbs with a high glycemic index—immediately following a workout optimizes muscle growth and recovery. Workouts that last for 20-30 minutes with 8-20 sets, deplete your muscle glycogen levels by up to 30-40 percent. These are just approximations, so it’s important that you observe your progress so that you can adjust. Everyone’s carb requirements are different.
Carbs help with recovery
High glycemic carbs like dextrose help with recovery after a workout. Since fluids are retained alongside glucose, the added carbs help with rehydration and electrolyte balance. This can mean the difference between being completely wiped out and feeling alive and rejuvenated again. Those who have cravings for sweets or starchy carbs may also benefit from fast carbs post-workout as a workaround for dieting restrictions.
Carbs spike insulin for muscle growth
Insulin is often debated upon when it comes to fat loss, but it is considered an anabolic hormone when it comes to muscle growth. It is believed to be a critical element in the prevention of muscle breakdown and muscle protein synthesis.
If you take creatine or BCAAs, you will want to spike insulin for better absorption into muscle cells. Therefore carbs are crucial for people who are trying to put on size.
Glucose is better than fructose for post-workout nutrition
Pure glucose—also known as dextrose—is one of the best choices for post-workout carbs because it is easily digested by the body. Post-workout glucose is absorbed quickly into the bloodstream, resulting in complete replenishment of glycogen stores. This also draws more water into the cells which is good for long-term muscle growth.
Fructose on the other hand, is not recommended post-workout because it is actually a low-glycemic carb. It is another form of sugar that the body doesn’t digest as easily as glucose. It cannot be converted into muscle glycogen as readily as glucose can. Instead, most it goes to the liver where it may be converted into glucose. However, once liver glycogen stores are full, fructose is also stored as fat more readily than glucose, which is why dextrose is preferred.
“Will post-workout carbs make me fat?”
Absolutely not. Most people simply cannot believe that consuming carbs directly after a workout will not make them fat, but studies have proven otherwise time and time again. In fact, post-workout is one of the best times to consume ‘unhealthy’ carbs because it is very unlikely that you will store them as body fat. Those who are dieting down on low carbs are advised to time their carb allowance to pre and post-workout meals for optimal gains and a reduced risk of muscle breakdown.