What are carbohydrates?
Energy for the muscles and brain.
Carbohydrates provide energy for the muscles and brain. Carbohydrates are broken down into blood sugar (glucose) to either be used straight away as energy or stored for future energy by insulin either in the muscles and liver as glycogen or as fats in adipose tissue (body fat). Glycogen in the liver is converted into blood sugar (glucose) to provide energy to the brain and for bodily functions. Glycogen in the muscles is converted into blood sugar (glucose) to provide energy for intense physical activity. Carbohydrates have a low thermic effect. 5% to 15% of the calories consumed from carbohydrates will be used to digest them. The are 4 calories in a gram of carbohydrates. Carbohydrate based food are often split into 2 categories. Complex and simple carbohydrates.
Complex carbohydrates are made up of at least three single sugar molecules. They include starches, maltose and cellulose. Traditional theory had it, although there are now known exceptions, that complex carbohydrates are found in low to mid glycemic foods, meaning they digest slowly, between 2 to 4 hours, and are absorbed into the blood as sugar (glucose) in smaller doses over a longer time period providing a slow continuous energy release. Insulin is produced gradually to process the slow release of sugar into the blood rather than in bulk. This helps to keep blood insulin levels stable. Complex carbohydrates can be found in root vegetables, leafy greens, brown bread, brown rice, brown pasta, and some whole fruits. Although the general rule is that foods containing complex carbohydrates are slow burning, this is not always the case, so looking at the Glycemic Index (GI) is a better way to gauge the rate at which foods break down into blood sugar.
Simple carbohydrates are made up of one or two single sugar molecules. They include table sugar, fructose, and syrups. Traditional theory had it, although there are now known exceptions, that simple carbohydrates are found in mid to high glycemic foods, meaning they digest relatively faster, between 1 to 2 hours but start working immediately, and are absorbed into the blood as sugar (glucose) in larger doses over a shorter time period providing a quick burst of energy. This fast energy release causes a blood sugar rush. Insulin is produced in bulk to process it. This Insulin spike can then lead to low blood sugar levels causing your energy levels to crash, drowsiness and hunger cravings. Simple carbohydrates can be found in milk, white potatoes, white bread, white rice, white pasta, white flour, fruit juice, and processed foods. Although the general rule is that foods containing simple carbohydrates are fast burning, this is not always the case, so looking at the Glycemic Index (GI) is a better way to gauge the rate at which foods break down into blood sugar.
Glycemic Index & Load.
As already mentioned above, measuring the rate at which foods affect blood sugar levels is not as simple as traditionally thought whereby simple carbohydrate foods digest fast and complex carbohydrate foods digest slowly. The composition of the whole food itself, the surface exposure of sugars rather than just their relative complexity, the method used to cook or store the food, and the particular mix of protein, fats, carbohydrates, in both the food itself, and in the stomach at the time, all have an effect on the rate at which the food breaks down into blood sugar.
The Glycemic Index (GI) indicates the rates at which different foods raise blood sugar levels. The Glycemic Load (GL) is far more practical as it uses the GI along with the amount of carbohydrates consumed to indicate the actual effect it may have on blood sugar level rises. Read the glycemic load section for more information.
Insulin is an important hormone that the pancreas secretes into the blood to regulate blood sugar. Carbohydrates have a direct effect on insulin blood levels. The more carbohydrates you eat, the more insulin there will be in the blood. This is important for several reasons. Read the insulin section for more information on how insulin affects your body.
The Good Complex Carbohydrates.
Complex carbohydrates taken in regular sensible portion sizes throughout the day will provide a constant steady supply of energy (glucose) to the bloodstream and brain keeping blood insulin levels steady and making you feel more energetic and alert.
This in turn reduces, or even eliminates, the low blood sugar feelings from insulin spikes that lead to drowsiness, sugar cravings, and hunger.
Be aware brown bread is the main buck to this trend as it is surprisingly very nearly high glycemic. A couple of slices is absolutely fine though. One slice actually has a low glycemic load, 2 slices as part of a sandwich has a mid glycemic load. More than this in one sitting may spike your insulin levels though. This does however make it a perfect breakfast food for refilling glycogen stores quickly when your insulin sensitivity is naturally higher first thing in the morning.
Dietary fibre is an important part of a healthy diet found in plant based foods and fruit. It's a form of carbohydrate that does not get digested in our small intestine. This also has the added benefit of making you feel fuller for longer, which helps to naturally prevent you from over eating. It smooths digestion, helps remove toxins from the bowel, and causes sugar to be released into the blood much more slowly, lowering the glycemic index of any meal. Dietary fibre is non-glycaemic, meaning its sugar units are not absorbed into the blood.
There are two types of fibre:-
- Soluble Fibre
Found in foods such as oats, barley and rye, fruit, and root vegetables, soluble fibre can actually be digested by your body. Soluble fibre can help reduce cholesterol levels, and relieve constipation by making your stools easier to pass.
- Insoluble Fibre
Found in foods such as wholemeal bread, bran, cereals, and nuts and seeds, insoluble fibre can't be digested by your body. It helps you feel fuller for longer and keeps your bowels healthy by assisting the movement and slowing the breakdown of other foods in the digestive system.
The Good Simple Carbohydrates.
Milk is the main simple carbohydrate trend bucker, as it is actually surprisingly a very low glycemic food as well as being highly nutritious and packed full of protein. Juice from fruit (in the context of eating an actual portion of fruit - not drinking a glass of fruit juice) is also good.
Potatoes, even though high glycemic, are also fine as they provide a wealth of other important and essential vitamins, nutrients, and minerals. The high glycemic properties of potatoes (along with the protein they provide) make them great post exercise foods. Their energy is absorbed into the muscles and liver like a sponge post exercise and the insulin spike is actually used by your body to more efficiently utilise amino acids from proteins to speed up muscle recovery time. New potatoes are also only mid glycemic and refrigerating any type of potato reduces their glycemic rating even more.
As part of a balanced diet the simple carbohydrates from natural simple carbohydrate foods should stay in quantities that are manageable by the body provided it hasn't already had an overdose of simple carbohydrates from unnecessary processed foods.
The Bad Simple Carbohydrates.
Added sugar in anything. Added sugar is also known as table sugar or sucrose. The World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2014 recommend added sugar be no more than 10% of total calories. There have been calls from various institutions for a further reduction down to 5% and even 3% based on it's links to growing levels of obesity and tooth decay. Added sugar is deceptively only mid glycemic on the Glycemic Index as it contains over 50% fructose, a problem that is outlined further down the page, but can be summed up by saying that fructose is more likely to convert to body fat than glucose, and when it does, it does so at a rate 4 times faster than glucose. Added sugar is nearly always found in processed foods and drinks. Processed foods are usually very high in added sugar dosage, high in calories, are bundled with a lot of saturated fat and added salt, additives, and preservatives for taste and cheaper production costs. They have little nutritious value that can't be found, and found more abundantly and efficiently, in other foods. They are primarily geared to be sold for taste and profits. These foods are best avoided as over consumption of them will not only result in weight gain, but will prevent your body managing the good simple carbohydrates above without unwanted insulin spikes as there will be too much added sugar in your system already. Too much added sugar, has been found to be very damaging to your liver as it can only process so much fructose at a time. The excess is converted to body fat. And this applies to drinks as well as food. In fact drinks, such as fizzy drinks and fruit juice, are probably the worst offenders of heavy sugar overdoses. Water and a piece of fruit is better. Your body can obtain all the sugar it needs from natural carbohydrate based foods, and in healthy proportions. Added sugar in processed foods is there purely for taste and profits.
Carbohydrates and Diet
How many carbohydrates?
Using the calorie calculator you can find out how many calories you should be consuming daily to reach your goal. It's recommended obtaining 40% to 65% of your daily calories from carbohydrates, consisting mostly of slow burning complex carbohydrates such as fruit, vegetables, and whole grains. However, carbohydrates are often surrounded by speculation as to how much to consume proportionately in your diet.
The insulin concern.
The concerns people have over carbohydrates and blood sugar is that blood sugar levels are what sparks the production of insulin. Insulin is produced by the pancreas to regulate blood sugar levels. Small doses of insulin dealing with small doses of blood sugar will use sugar as energy or store it in the muscles and liver as glycogen. Large doses of insulin dealing with large doses of blood sugar at once will use what sugar it can for energy and restoring glycogen levels and store the surplus as fat for later. So when people go on 'low carbohydrate' diets, it's an attempt reduce their blood sugar levels, to reduce the amount of insulin in their system, to reduce the amount of fat being stored and preserved in your body. It is in no way a calorie concern as carbohydrates have just under half the amount of calories per gram as fat. The less carbohydrates you intake, the lower your blood sugar will be, the lower the insulin in your blood will be, the easier it should be to lose body fat as insulin wont be continuously trying to preserve and store it as it deals with excess blood sugar. Although this is all true, the big problem with this is, if you take it too far, it also means the less instantly available energy you have for your muscles and possibly even brain. See the 'Carbohydrates and Exercise' section below for more on why this is not desirable for active people, particularly when doing HIIT.
Optimal carbohydrate consumption times? Pre workout, post workout, breakfast.
For the purpose of those intending to do HIIT routines such as The 4 Minute Max Outs, 'low carbohydrate' diets are not necessary to lose weight in general. Stick with the 40% to 65% recommendation and ensure you are getting enough naturally sourced carbohydrates for your body to power through HIIT sessions. You can use the nutrition calculator to find a healthy balanced food ratio of carbohydrates, protein, and fats tailored to your calorie goal and weight. Then, if you still feel it necessary for improved fat loss results, or your preference is towards a lower carbohydrate diet, you could try carbohydrate cycling which cycles high, mid, and low carbohydrate (not no carbohydrate) days around your exercise routine. It's important to remember that for HIIT to be effective, you need your heart rate to be in the zone that utilises blood sugar for fuel and energy, and to perform plenty of strength training moves, that also utilise blood sugar for fuel and energy. So when doing HIIT you should try to ensure that at the very least you consume carbohydrates in your pre work out meal (1 to 2 hours before your workout to allow digestion) and post workout meal (up to 60 minutes after your workout), and with protein. The energy will all get used to fuel and power your high intensity output and then speed up your recovery afterwards. When you are burning glycogen, you are burning the most calories that you can in the time worked and creating an after burn effect. The resultant high calorie burn is what will enable you to burn fat by helping to put you in a caloric deficit, whilst the high intensity exercise and increased testosterone and growth hormone stimulus will help to retain or even build muscle whilst losing this fat. This would be a much better option than simply cutting out carbohydrates to your detriment. Cutting out carbohydrates when doing HIIT basically means 3 things. Restricted workout intensity (which will lower your calorie burn), wasted protein (which will be detrimental to your muscles), and poor recovery (you will really feel the after effects of those workouts, and for longer, which will ultimately reduce the intensity and frequency you can put in). Carbohydrates at breakfast are a good idea also. This is other time of the day when your insulin sensitivity levels are naturally at their highest as your body has been in a fasted state, where the most active repair is taking place, for 6 to 8 hours.
The fructose concern.
The other concern is the over consumption of the simple carbohydrate fructose that comes naturally from fruit and vegetables, and deceptively has the lowest effect of all simple sugars on the glycemic index, which is why it is used as a sweetener in processed foods. Fructose can only be processed by the liver. Naturally it occurs in fruit in very small easily controlled doses. The problem is actually with the food industry that knows that sweet stuff sells combined with the fact that the liver is only capable of processing so much fructose at once. Processed foods with high amounts of added sugar contain over 50% fructose in that added sugar. When too much fructose enters the liver, the liver can't process it all fast enough. Instead, excess fructose ultimately ends up being converted into visceral fat that covers your internal organs and raises insulin resistance, causes the liver to swell, and raises bad LDL cholesterol along the way. Excess fructose is said to convert to body fat at a rate 4 times faster than excess glucose and, as the amount of fructose the liver can process at once is low, this occurs at a much lower threshold. Excess fructose also suppresses the appetite leveling hormone, leptin, but not the hunger hormone, ghrelin, making you more likely to over eat. A process that is amplified when high added sugar is combined with high fat in processed foods. Anyone who has ever devoured a 6 pack of high calorie glazed doughnuts, or a tub of ice cream, can testify to this.
So whilst going on a low carbohydrate diet is not desirable or recommended when doing HIIT, cutting down (or even out) on high added sugar processed foods most definitely is. Get your carbohydrates from natural foods whenever possible and be mindful of added sugar in food and drink. Natural carbohydrate based foods are incredibly good for you.
Fruit is still good!
Donâ€™t worry about eating fruit because of fructose. Eating fruit is not just fine but highly recommended.
The fructose from fruit is very low in quantity compared to cartoned fruit juice and other processed foods and is easily manageable by your liver provided it hasn't massively overdosed on sugar from other sources, processed foods for instance. But even then, fruit is not what you should be cutting out.
The whole fruit itself also contains fibre, and heaps of essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. Fruit juice in a carton is never a good idea as its strips all this out and just gives you the simple carbohydrate fructose in a hugely overdosed concentrated measure that your liver will struggle to process. It's also very high in calories making it the perfect recipe for rapid weight gain. You wouldn't eat 10 apples for a snack so why put ten in a glass that you'll probably end up drinking along with another snack? Instead of fruit juice, just have a glass of water and a portion of fruit. It's better for you all round.
Carbohydrates and Exercise.
Turbo charge your body.
Although body fats are the main source of energy for most daily activities, blood sugar is always used as fuel in synergy with fat no matter the level of intensity. Also, when sugar enters the blood, after eating carbohydrates for instance, insulin ensures blood sugar becomes the preferred fuel source so that it can do its job, and ensure blood sugar levels are reduced back to acceptable levels as quickly as possible. What isn't used as fuel is stored as potential energy as either glycogen in the muscles and liver, or once they're full up, as fat in adipose tissue. As exercise intensity rises, fat and blood sugar (from glucose or glycogen) usage rise as fuel. Initially fat much faster than blood sugar. But once the intensity is such that the body can no longer utilise fat fast enough for energy, the amount of blood sugar used as fuel accelerates rapidly to meet the demand for energy. This is where the calorie burn also rapidly accelerates, making the percentage fat used to power the exercise virtually irrelevant. When it comes to breaking down your muscles so they can grow back stronger, or trying to lose weight by burning more calories, what matters in terms of what fuels the exercise is, whether or not that fuel will enable maximum intensity or not, and when it will run out.
Carbohydrates are by far the most efficient way of providing this additional source of energy needed for effective intensive exercise which requires more blood sugar (from glucose or glycogen). Fat cannot be used as energy fast enough. Your brain also relies on energy from carbohydrates so will naturally halt the ready supply of it when it senses that your reserves of them in the blood, muscles, and liver are low. If your body were a car, body fat would be the low power petrol with unbelievable mileage whilst blood sugar from carbohydrates would be the high power fuel injection turbo boost required in order to achieve maximum performance. But its mileage is poor. When the fuel injection dries up, so does the performance. 100% of carbohydrates are turned into glucose as opposed to only 60% of proteins and 10% of fats, and at a much faster rate. So if your an active person that requires energy to work out, it would be the healthy smart option to focus on carbohydrates being the highest percentage of your diet. With the more active your day being, the more grams of carbohydrates you consume.
Carbohydrates vs intensity vs time.
High intensity training such as, resistance / weight training and HIIT, use glycogen stores from muscles as the primary source of fuel in a workout, with fat a secondary source. Lower intensity exercise such as long slow running or cycling use fat as the primary source of fuel and glycogen as a secondary source. But remember, what matters in terms of what fuels the exercise is, whether or not that fuel will enable maximum calorie burn and whether it will run out or not. So if you were doing resistance / weight training or HIIT you need more carbohydrates than going jogging or cycling as they are both high intensity activities fuelled primarily by glycogen. Likewise, a longer jog or cycle would need more energy from carbohydrates than shorter ones, not because there is any change in metabolism from fat to glycogen as the primary fuel, but as the duration means a longer draw on glycogen stores. A marathon runner, given that even though they are not sprinting they run a whopping 26 miles, will benefit from a full tank of carbohydrates too. Even then, it's very common for long distance endurance athletes to 'hit the wall' and experience a huge energy drop as their glycogen stores become too depleted. There is more on this below.
So basically intensity and duration of physical activity is what determines the need for a higher or lower consumption of carbohydrates.
Finding your own balance is best so long as you don't sell yourself short on carbohydrates for the time and intensity of workout you are going to put in and stay within the 40% to 65% carbohydrates of your daily calorie limit. See the section on food ratios for more information on this, and use the nutrition calculator to get a balanced food ratio with a healthy amount of carbohydrates that you can adjust to suit your preferences.
The 'Bonk' and 'Hitting the Wall'.
Whether you are doing high or low intensity exercise, depleting your glycogen stores to low levels is never desirable. Carbohydrates provide the quickest source of energy to your body, both in terms of generating blood sugar and refueling glycogen stores in the muscles and liver. They make your workouts more efficient, and provide fuel to the brain and other essential organs. If you glycogen levels run too low, your body will alter metabolism to preserve the remaining stores for these vital organs. Then, in the absence of sufficient blood sugar as fuel, due to the lack of efficient enough fuel to meet demand, your performance will be naturally limited or even suddenly drop, or crash. This common phenomenon was coined by endurance cyclists as a 'bonk', and by runners as 'hitting the wall'. It is also experienced by weightlifters and those performing HIIT as they utilise blood sugar and glycogen very rapidly. Energy levels and strength output drop. You feel sluggish, both mentally and physically. Your will power declines. Basically, everything becomes significantly more laboured and arduous. Torturous even! Long distance endurance cyclists or runners can train to prevent the 'bonk' by better pacing themselves at a lower intensity, and by training in a depleted carbohydrate state to help find and extend the point at which it occurs. They then take glucose gels or liquids around 20 minutes before the point they know their bonk will likely kick in, and then every 30 minutes or so afterwards. You'll often see tennis players chomping their way through bananas in between games in 5 set matches for the same reason. Due to the high intensity nature and the shorter duration of the workouts, weight lifters and those performing HIIT simply cannot do this. They need stocked carbohydrate stores to provide the required energy to fuel high intensity exercise efficiently for the full relatively short time they are performing. If they 'bonk' or 'hit the wall', their session is as good as over in terms of efficiency and further prolonged intensity will eat into their recovery protein. If you 'bonk' or 'hit the wall' during an event or workout, eat more fast burning carbohydrates and protein than usual after your workout to quickly replenish you glycogen stores and to help prevent a poor prolonged recovery period. Of course to prevent this when doing HIIT or weight lifting, you should try to ensure that at the very least you consume carbohydrates in your pre work out meal (1 to 2 hours before your workout to allow digestion) and post workout meal (up to 60 minutes after your workout), and with protein. The energy will all get used to fuel and power your high intensity output and then speed up your recovery afterwards.
Carbohydrates and lactic acid.
Forms of exercise, such as HIIT, that rapidly utilise carbohydrate fuels such as glucose and glycogen as energy, accelerate the production of lactic acid in the body. The lactate in the lactic acid is used as additional fuel, whilst the hydrogen ion in the lactic acid, the part that makes it acidic, causes that burn sensation that fatigues your muscles. When lactic acid builds up in your muscles and blood causing you to fatigue, it's because the lactate can't be used as fuel fast enough. When you stop for each short recovery period during HIIT, the rate of lactate used for energy quickly catches up with the rate of lactate production, clearing the lactic acid build up, stopping the burn, and allowing you to push as hard and fast as you can again. Repeatedly performing activity that brings your muscles to fatigue from lactic acid build up will gradually increase the rate at which your body can use lactate for energy, thereby increasing your lactate threshold, enabling you to push harder for longer in your workouts before the lactic acid build up occurs. Steady state cardio, such as long slow running or cycling under 65% HRmax, also improves your lactate threshold and the rate at which lactate can be used for energy, as it forces your body to adapt to having continuous higher levels of lactate in the blood for a prolonged period of time.
Carbohydrates preserve protein.
When doing HIIT, your heart rate should be high enough that your body will be in the highest calorie burning zone, drawing energy primarily from glycogen stores in the muscles whilst burning a lesser relative percentage, although still a high amount of fat at the same time.
It should be noted that to lose weight, fat burn is a result of the balance of daily expenditure (calories in versus calories out), not simply the amount and type of fuel oxidised during exercise. All that really matters about the percentage fuel source at different relative intensities of exercise is whether the fuel will run out or not for the intensity required, and how many calories you burn in total. Without carbohydrates, your intensity, and therefore calories burned will be restricted. As a result, your ability to break down your muscles to stimulate growth, and extend or create a calorie deficit for your body via exercise to burn fat, will be restricted too.
If your body adapts to prevent itself running out of this instantly available energy needed for higher intensity exercise, because your muscles glycogen stores were low from not eating carbohydrates for instance, it wont just draw more energy from fat reserves as you might hope for. It can't break fat down efficiently enough for that. After all, that's why it was utilising the glycogen to turbo charge your intensity in the first place. Your performance will drop and your body will look to the fastest route to create the blood sugar fat fuel synergy it needs to meet the demands of intensive exercise. Fat usage for fuel raises only slightly with depleted carbohydrates, as your body breaks down the protein you have consumed and, if the situation is prolonged, your own muscles to blood sugar, as even if it's less efficient than breaking down carbohydrates, it's still much more efficient than attempting to use body fat in the absence of carbohydrates.
Remember the fuel source is irrelevant to the total amount of calories burned to extend your daily calorie deficit to burn fat. If your performance is restricted, so is your total calorie burn, so is your ability to burn more fat, so is your ability to work your muscles efficiently. And if your protein is used for energy, you will have less for recovery and muscle growth. So thanks to a carbohydrate deficit, much of that protein you consumed to build your muscles after the workout is wasted and, depending on the duration and intensity whilst on low glycogen, on top of that your muscles may have started to catabolize themselves too.
Natural carbohydrate based foods are good for you.
And then there is the other potential dangers of high intensity exercise on low carbohydrates where you experience light headedness, dizziness, nausea and chronic fatigue. Not to mention the fact that natural carbohydrate based foods are also by far the best source of fibre, and essential vitamins and minerals that the body also needs for good health. If you eat healthily doing HIIT, and stay within the recommended guidelines for healthy eating, you can burn fat fast and keep and build your muscle mass. If you decide to cut out carbohydrates, you will still lose a lot of weight, but potentially a lot of muscle too unless you massively overshoot your protein intake as a lot of your protein will be wasted as sub optimal fuel. And don't forget, excess protein also generates blood sugar and so can also spike insulin. Cutting out carbohydrates will compromise your recovery massively and therefore your muscles ability to repair and grow.
HIIT Vs Insulin Vs Weight Gain.
HIIT has been shown to massively improve both weight loss and insulin resistance on a balanced diet that does not omit or restrict carbohydrates in any way. Use the nutrition calculator to help you find the right balance that suits. Don't believe the myth that eating carbohydrates means you can't lose weight just because it stimulates insulin production. High Intensity Interval Training that combines muscle strength moves in it, like The 4 Minute Max Outs for instance, will strip your fat fast when in a healthy calorie deficit, and keep your muscles lean and strong at the same time. It will also vastly improve your cardiovascular system in the process. With HIIT, as you are training in the maximum cardio benefit zone, your body is essentially using maximum blood sugar with a high amount of fat, to provide you with enough instant fuel to get through your workout, and crucially, burning the highest amount of calories at the same time.
If you eat well, your insulin sensitivity will improve as a result of HIIT, making you less prone to adverse effects from insulin spikes overall. Basically, as well as using much more blood sugar as energy, more blood sugar will be able to be stored as glycogen in your muscles, and at a faster rate. This means there will be less excess blood sugar for insulin to convert to fat. Combine that with the much higher calorie burn and you have the perfect recipe for both weight loss and improving your insulin resistance. And the great thing about this scenario is, improving either, will directly promote further improvement in the other, giving accelerated results. That is, losing weight is a key factor in improving insulin sensitivity, and improving insulin sensitivity is a key factor in losing weight. HIIT aligns the two goals to get great proven accelerated results in both. HIIT with an absence of carbohydrates will lead to a performance drop, and as a result a much lower calorie burn with your protein being broken down for blood sugar (less efficiently than carbohydrates) and potential catabolism, as your muscles are broken down into blood sugar too. This will both reduce the effectiveness of your workouts and lengthen your recovery time, hampering your results. Use the nutrition calculator to find a balanced food ratio of carbohydrates, protein, and fats tailored to your calorie goal and weight. It's important to remember, if you are exercising hard or doing HIIT, carbohydrates and insulin are not the bad guys. You just need to use them both to your advantage rather than deficit.
Tips On Carbohydrate Intake.
- Consume 40% to 65% of your daily calories in carbohydrates. You can use the nutrition calculator to find a balanced food ratio of carbohydrates, protein, and fats tailored to your calorie goal and weight.
- Don't over eat. Stay inside your total daily calorie allowance for your goals.
- The higher the intensity and duration of your workout in a day, the more carbohydrates you should consume. You can have less carbohydrates on rest days if preferred but remember to raise protein and fat accordingly.
- HIIT will get you up to 85% HRmax and over. Your body needs glycogen stores to be effective in this zone. You need carbohydrates for this.
- Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables.
- When trying to lose weight, go for low and mid glycemic foods wherever possible to keep insulin spikes and hunger at bay.
- Avoid white foods such as white bread, white rice, and white pasta. Go for brown instead.
- Avoid added sugar and processed foods.
- Have low and mid glycemic foods in a pre workout meal around 2 hours before workouts with protein.
- Have high glycemic foods when you are most insulin sensitive. First thing in the morning and post workout inside of 60 minutes after the workout, along with protein, to replenish glycogen stores quickly and spike your insulin to assist amino acids in muscle repair.
The Good Complex Carbohydrates
- BROWN RICE
- BROWN PASTA
- SWEET POTATO
- WHOLE FRUIT (juice is simple)
- BUTTERNUT SQUASH
- SWISS CHARD
- RED AND GREEN LEAF LETTUCE
- Generally speaking, complex carbohydrates provide slow release energy throughout the day.
These foods are all perfect for helping to maintain steady blood sugar and insulin levels, making you feel full of energy, and helping prevent sugar and hunger cravings.
The Good Simple Carbohydrates
- JUICE FROM FRUIT(as in a single fruit)
- (NOT a glass from a carton)
- Fructose occurs naturally in fruit juice. Galactose is found naturally in milk and peas. Potatoes and milk also contain complete proteins. All make excellent post workout foods. Insulin spikes, normally undesirable, actually help with utilizing proteins amino acids for muscle repair after exercise.
The Bad Simple Carbohydrates
- WHITE BREAD
- WHITE PASTA
- WHITE RICE
- Better to switch to Low Glycemic Brown alternatives to reduce unwanted insulin spikes and sugar/hunger cravings.
- CARTONED FRUIT JUICE
- PROCESSED FOODS IN GENERAL
- Best to avoid altogether. High dead calorie foods usually high in saturated fat additives and preservatives too. Far too much fructose in processed sugars. They will make you fat quickly and make it harder to lose the fat you already have. They will also make you want more!
Glycemic Index (the rate food breaks down into blood sugar)
(For more specific information, including searching for GI's and GL's of all listed foods go to www.glycemicindex.com.)
Low Glycemic (<55)
14 Yoghurt unsweetened
20 Soya beans
27 Milk full fat
28 Kidney beans
29 Peanut butter
30 Apricot dried
30 Banana unripe
31 Butter Beans
32 Milk Skimmed
32 Split peas
33 Yoghurt sweetened
38 Tomato juice
39 Spaghetti wholemeal
40 Pinto beans
42 Spaghetti white
43 Soy milk
43 All bran
44 Apple juice
46 Baked beans tinned
46 Pineapple juice
49 Mixed grain
50 Oat bran
52 Basmati rice
53 Kiwi fruit
54 Potato crisps
54 Special K
54 Sweet potato
55 Apricot jam
55 Orange juice
55 Brown rice
55 Snickers Bar
Mid Glycemic (56 - 69)
56 Long grain white rice
57 Rich tea biscuits
58 Banana ripe
58 Pitta bread
60 Digstive biscuit
61 Ice cream
62 Potato new
64 Apricot tinned
65 Mars bar
65 Rye bread
65 Table sugar
68 French baguette
69 Wholemeal bread
High Glycemic (70-100)
70 Shredded wheat
70 White bread
72 Dates dried
72 Potato baked
72 Short grain white rice
74 Potato boiled or mashed
76 Dark rye bread
80 Jelly beans
80 Puffed wheat
83 Rice crisps
Glycemic Load (estimates the actual effect on blood sugar levels)
(For more specific information, including searching for GI's and GL's of all listed foods go to www.glycemicindex.com.)
Glycemic Load = (Glycemic Index rating/100) X grams of carbs in portion size
Each GL unit has the same effect on blood sugar as 1 gram of glucose.
GL's of 10 or below are considered low.
GL's of 11 to 19 are considered medium.
GL's of 20 or above are considered high.
GL's of 80 or below per day are considered low.
GL's of 80 to 120 per day are considered medium.
GL's of 120 and above per day are considered high.