We all train with different goals and targets in mind, which is why so many of us find ourselves consuming a wide range of various foods and supplements to help us reach our goals. For example, an off-season bodybuilder trying to gain as much strength and muscle mass as they possibly can, is not going to be following the same training routine, or following the same diet and nutritional plan as somebody trying to burn fat and increase their lean muscle definition.
As far as daily macro requirements are concerned, many bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts find themselves obsessing over protein and can drive themselves absolutely crazy with worry, if they fail to meet their daily protein macro requirements, even if it’s only by a few measly grams. In actual fact however, it is carbohydrates that should instead be focussed on, yet despite this, many people are still not quite sure where they stand with carbs, especially in regards to carb consumption in the evening.
Before we take a more in-depth look at whether or not carbs are indeed as good, or as bad, as many people would have us believe, it’s worth taking a look at daily macros. You see, as we all train with different goals and targets in mind, we all therefore require a different macronutrient ratio on a daily basis. For example, somebody trying to bulk up and build muscle, is going to need to consume way more calories than somebody trying to lose weight and shred up. As our calories come from a combination of protein, carbohydrates, and fats, the quantities we consume will all be based mainly upon our own size, and indeed our goals and targets.
When it comes to daily macros, protein and fat consumption generally remains largely unchanged, whether you’re bulking, cutting, or just trying to boost performance. Sure, you may tweak them by 5 – 10%, but for the most part, it is getting your daily carbohydrate consumption spot on that tends to give us the biggest headache. When it comes to carbs, there is sadly a great deal of myths for you to wade through, with one of the best examples being the fact that, in order to lose weight, all you need to do is not consume carbohydrates after 5pm. Needless to say, this is not true, although the timing of your carb consumption can still affect your progress if your macro timings and ratios aren’t correct.
First and foremost, we’ll begin by taking a look at fast release carbohydrates. Fast release carbohydrates are generally made up of simple glucose sugar molecules, and, as the name implies, they are able to supply much quicker bursts of energy than slow release complex carbohydrates. Studies have found that the optimal time to consume fast release carbohydrates, is post-workout, immediately following your workout. Because of this, many bodybuilders include fast release carbohydrate supplements such as dextrose, as part of their supplement stack, and will consume these supplements immediately following their workouts. The reason for this is the fact that muscle glycogen levels quickly diminish as we work out, and, at the end of our training sessions, these glycogen stores will be near empty. Fast release carbohydrates are rapidly absorbed by the body, helping to quickly replenish glycogen levels, whilst creating a post-workout insulin spike, which helps to shuttle other proteins and amino acids, which should be consumed via a post-workout protein shake, into the muscles so that they can begin repairing and recovering. Although ideal for post-workout nutrition, fast release carb supplements are also ideal for pre, and intra workout consumption as well, which will help keep the body fuelled and energized for longer, thus increasing workout intensity and productivity.
Slow release carbs are carbohydrates which are much slower to be digested and absorbed, meaning that they supply a much slower and steadier supply of energy to the body. Popular slow release foods and supplements include advanced oats and super grains, both of which taste great, and offer numerous health and fitness benefits. Many sources of slow release carbs, particularly oats and grains, are packed full of minerals, vitamins, fibre, and energy that provide slow and steady releases of fuel for the body over the course of several hours. For people who need sustained levels of energy to get them through the day, slow release carbs and supplements are absolutely ideal, and, as they do have naturally low Glycemic Indexes, they’re great for people looking to keep their weight under control.
The general consensus appears to be that it is bad to consume carbohydrates in the evening. It is also widely believed the metabolism naturally slows down later in the evening, rather than being converted into glucose molecules for energy, these carbs will instead be more likely to be stored as body fat instead. Now, at first glance this does seem pretty fair, but studies have actually found that, during the later stages of sleep, our metabolisms do actually begin to perk up, even when we’re asleep. So, because of this, as long as you don’t exceed your daily macros, it doesn’t actually seem to matter when you consume your carbohydrates, although gorging on a plate of pasta, garlic bread, and extra dough balls right before bed is certainly not recommended, even if you haven’t touched a single carb up until that point.