I wrote my previous post — 5 Ways to Burn Belly Fat — because that’s one of the most common questions I get from friends, family, and clients. But another popular question, and one that goes hand-in-hand with both training AND fat loss, is the question on carbs. How many? Which ones? And when to eat them?
So I made a little cheat sheet here. I tried to keep this as simple and #basic as I could, so if you end up feeling that you need a little more carb-personalization, please reach out to us on our Facebook page (DM us) OR fill out a form to talk directly to one of our coaches at coaching.strongfigure.com.
How and When and What Carbs to Eat, Cheat Sheet
- Athletes/Lifters (to build muscle and use for energy)
- Leaner, athletic individuals (the leaner and more active, the more carbs one should consume)
Eat the bulk of your carbs peri-workout. This means before, during, and after.
- Eat whole grains, fruits, rice, and potatoes pre-workout for energy.
- During a long/intense heavy training workout, eat simple carbs such as fruit or dextrose for quick energy.
- Post training, eat simple carbs such fruit (fructose) and dextrose, paired with a lean protein source such as whey protein powder. (Think fruit protein smoothie or gummy bears + your protein shake)
- 30-60 minutes post training: eat a meal with rice or potatoes and lean protein such as chicken, fish, or turkey.
- Avoid fatty foods and high fiber foods post training–this may get in the way of muscle repair, growth, and recovery. Wait at least two hours if possible to resume eating good fats and high fiber foods.
- Your two largest carb-filled meals should be the two you have post training (the immediate post-workout shake and the first meal after).
- Outside your training window, eat veggies (aim for two cups) and beans (optional) with your other meals.
CARBS to EAT
- Post-workout sources such as dextrose (foods in which the main carb ingredient is dextrose)
- Fruit (fructose)
- Potatoes (white and sweet)
- Oats and Buckwheat
- Rice (all kinds)
CARBS to AVOID
- Candy (unless the candy contains dextrose and zero fat — jelly beans or gummy bears — and these are eaten peri-workout for energy or glycogen replacement ONLY)
WHAT ABOUT DAIRY?
Some experts say to avoid dairy; whereas, others are fine with dairy. My advice? If you’re ok with dairy, and you enjoy dairy, I don’t think high protein sources like cottage cheese and Greek yogurt (plain) pose any risks. Especially since Greek yogurt is full of gut-healthy probiotics and is a great smoothie ingredient. You make the call on dairy, but I would limit it to 1-2 servings a day.
- Carbs should be tailored to the individual and his/her workout program and goals.
- A rough estimate = hard training athletes typically need 200g+ per day.
- Off days or moderate training athletes fall in the ballpark of 150 or less per day.
- Non-exercising individual roughly 50-120 grams per day.
- Those who carry more fat on their bodies can get away with less carbs than a leaner individual.
- Those with a high-functioning metabolism can get away with more carbs than others.
- If performance is the number one goal, more carbs are essential.
- If aesthetics is the number one goal, less carbs is preferential.
- For a quick personal macro calculation, CLICK HERE.
- Don’t be dumb about carb choices. Don’t eat donuts just because you worked hard today and “deserve” it.
- If fat loss is your goal, don’t eat carbs for breakfast unless you train first thing in the morning. Carbs spike insulin levels so other than veggies, wait until your workout window to eat carbs such as fruit, grains, yogurt/dairy, etc.
Should You Carb Cycle?
Carb cycling is what many athletes do in order to eat enough carbs for energy yet not too many for aesthetics and fat loss. If you’re eating less carbs on non-training or moderate training days, this is essentially carb cycling. This is likely best if fat loss is a main goal. If performance is the main goal, no, you don’t necessarily need to carb cycle.
You can also carb cycle by eating more carbs on bigger muscle workout days such as squat and deadlift days. The bigger the muscles worked, the more carbs you can take in.
If you are keeping a close eye on your carb intake and you start to feel tired and unmotivated when it comes to your workouts, it’s time to increase your carbs OR have a refeed day (a day where you increase your carbs by about 50 grams, and preferably post training).
IF YOU MUST
Eat bread or dessert or pasta, make sure it’s a heavy workout day. Eat these foods in your peri-workout window, and if you can, save them for a refeed or higher carb day.
For a personalized macro-evaluation to find out exactly how many calories, carbs, fats, and protein grams you should be consuming daily (for only $15) fill out the contact form found here!
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