If there is one aspect of the nutritional world that has irked me to no end, it is the subject matter of carbohydrates. Over the years, I have cut carbs, carb loaded, carb cycled, and gone absolutely carb crazy as I tried to find out what the specific ratio of carbohydrate intake would be for a my specific goals. Now, when I started my primal fitness journey, I was more on the fat loss side of the spectrum. I had cut my carbohydrate loads back to maintain the “fatloss sweet spot” a la Primal Blueprint style according to Mark Sisson. But then…I became an athlete, and a funny thing happened. My every decreasing body fat percentage seemed to go hand in hand with my overall lower athletic performance. I have talked to a number of paleo-friendly athletes who have also run into this carb restricted wall as well, wondering why they felt so gassed midway through a WOD or RKC style chain workout. So…what’s all the hulabaloo? To carb or not to carb? Is that really the question? This weeks three part series is all about the role of carbohydrates for fat loss, athletic performance, and mass gain. Today, we will be discussing the role of carbohydrates to enhance the fat burning process. Grab a fork and get ready to eat this blog post up!
“You mean to tell me that I CAN eat carbs to lose weight?”
YES! ABSOLUTELY! PLEASE! DO THAT NOW! 😀
OK but seriously, carbs ARE NOT THE ENEMY! Now, I am not suggesting that we continue to eat processed carbohydrate sources. Wheat, refined sugar, white flour, and all that other processed junk will most certainly wreak havoc on your waistline. That notion is well understood. However, I am no carbophobe and regularly tell my clients who have even more aggressive weight loss goals to continue to eat carbohydrates in a given manner to actually ENHANCE the fat burning effect. Here’s some nutritional tid bits on how to eat carbs to maximize fat loss.
1. Eat your carbs first thing in the morning.
Your body is primed to use carbohydrates for fuel after a night of fasting. Your glycogen stores will be somewhat depleted after fasting all night while you sleep, which gives you extra room to replenish those lowered glycogen stores. Your metabolic rate is highest in the morning as is your insulin sensitivity. This is a great way to fuel yourself for a morning workout. Now, if you do not train in the morning, save the starches for after your high intensity training. Which brings me to…
2. Eat your carbs post workout.
You have what is called a “post workout anabolic window” that allows you to get your biggest carb serving of the day without risking fat to spill over into storage mode. Generally speaking, the fat melting window is between 1-4 hours post workout. TO maximize results, I recommend eating your largest carb serving of the day within 1 hour of your most intense training session. A typical meal for me post workout is my infamous starch shake, or grilled turkey breast with steamed broccoli and sweet potatoes. Combining carbs with proteins and fats should be done in a manner that promotes fat loss while preserving muscle. Which brings me to…
3. NEVER EAT CARBS BY THEMSELVES!
To preserve muscle and promote fat loss, you want to make sure you have a protein source with a carb source at each meal. While it is known that adding fats to carbohydrates can slow the insulin response, you want to actually AVOID doing this per and post workout. Remember, the best times to consume carbs are first thing in the am and right after a workout. Any other time, you want to limit your carb sources between 10-20 grams at a sitting to optimize fat loss. As a general rule, pre and post workout meals should have a fat load under 10-15 grams in combination with your protein and carbs. When eating a heavier protein and fat meal, you should limit carb intake to 10-15 grams as well (note: I generally recommend the support portion of 20grams based on the intensity of a workout. Outside of the pre and post workout windows, carb sources should be from green vegetables only).
“Great! So…what carbs can I eat?”
Here is a comprehensive list of safe starches that I cycle through on a regular basis. My go to carbs these days are bananas, sweet potatoes, acorn squash and parsnips. Pick and choose your liking and get ready to chow down. Need some help with making fun and festive, carb friendly sides? Check out my recipe for smokey creole sweet potato fries.
On Wednesday I will be discussing the role of carbohydrates in athletic performance. For all of my crossfit and RKC training buddies, STAY TUNED! We are getting down into the nitty gritty! Until then, remember to eat smart, train hard, and enjoy your life!
Janelle Pica, RKC