if you walk into the gym feeling like a beat pile of dog poo, then odds are you’re either at the end of a strenuous training cycle or you’re just not getting enough carbs. If you’re consistently lifting 3-5 times per week at a moderate to high intensity, then you need to be highly concerned with the quantity and quality of carbs in your diet! This is addressed in the resource Quick Paleo Meal Prep, which outlines how and why to prepare meals ahead of time for quality control and ease. This post however is about how and when to carb up for lifting so strap in and let’s get into it!
SIGNS YOUR CARBS ARE TOO LOW
If you get 2-3 sets in on a moderate strength load and you feel like you need to sit down and recover…you’re way too low. Also if the weights feel like they’re moving slower than expected even on a “weak day” then I would address this as well. You probably know the feeling of being fully charged in the gym and having the weights jump because of your quickness. Coincidentally this probably happened the morning after you went out for pizza and beer with the guys, and you might have even ordered a side of bread sticks to complete the mood of the carb festivities. Whereas if you decided to have a big salad with oil and vinegar dressing topped with grilled chicken, no salt and no pepper, then I wouldn’t expect to be crushing any PRs the next day.
WHY CARBS FOR ATHLETES?
Do you want to run 4 sec 40 Yd dash and not pass out? You need carbs. Do you want to get stronger in every workout and recover? You need carbs. Do you want to look vascular as all get out for them females?? You need carbs! Carbs when broken down are the fuel for your energy systems and partial brain function. To run the 4:40 more than once you’ll need more than a whole head of broccoli the night before, seeing as how the calories required for something like that are around 300 up front calories and a metabolic “afterburn” of 700 for the rest of the day just for that one exercise. Look up in the nfl how many vegan running backs there are, and should you find any you won’t be too impressed with their stats. Carbs found in calorie dense foods like pasta, sweet potatoes and rice are the best fuel to get athletes beyond their limits, but moderation and timing are important.
WHEN AND HOW TO CARB LOAD
The best template I’ve found is the modified Paleo approach. You’ll maintain the typical mostly meats and veggies between workouts and down time, but the night before your heavy morning lifts or morning games you’ll need to carb up. This will take some trial and error so don’t save this strategy for an important game day, test it on other days first! How your body reacts to different qualities and quantities of carbs is different from everyone else on the planet. For example, what works best for me the night before a heavy morning squat session is a THICK peanut butter sandwich with whole wheat bread and the morning of I’ll eat a slice of plain bread on the way to the gym. That probably won’t work for you, body weight, activity level, stress and current diet all play into how this works for you so take time to customize it for YOU. If you’re working out later in the day I would get a container of high quality dextros for like $20 and a container of BCAAs, mix a two to one ratio (20 g BCAAs and 40 g dextros), but again find your sweet spot. And DONT FORGET POST WORKOUT!!!! This is by far the most important meal of your training day! I have a blog post about it that I will link here.
If you’re dragging when you get a third of the way through the workout, or aren’t seeing results anymore, look at your carb intake prior to lifting. Check out the blog post for details on how and get started on your progress!
We’ve all seen them in the gym, frosted protein shake in hand, without it they probably wouldn’t be here. They hustle towards the weight rack, blaring jams to grind through their 20 sets of 8-12 reps. With a grunt of satisfaction they pump out the last rep and down the protein cocktail they put all their trust in… Cool story bro.
WHY DO WE DO THIS??
Why is it held as “common knowledge” that this is the ritual that we are to follow to have a successful workout? Why the powder instead of the real thing? I believe it’s mostly due to marketing and the lack of willingness to believe that maybe re supplement industry doesn’t have our best internet in mind (but that’s just me). Or maybe it’s because you had such a hard workout that you need the hydro isolate anabolic homeostatic protein to make it to your ripped muscles so fast because you might loose your gainzzzzz….no.
DID YOU REALLY WORKOUT HARD?
If so then you would have opened your muscles glucose receptor stores and anything you put in will be shuttled to the needy parts. This is of course assuming you did have an intense session and not just a jaw grinder with the bros. So put the food in that you need! The truth is that once you tax the body to the point of needing to grow new muscle the only things the muscles need aren’t JUST protein. It needs nutrients only found in whole foods. Carbs, proteins and fats to restore and improve what you’ve broken.
After every workout I have I have a pre prepped meal of one large sweet potato and a cup and a half of ground beef with the fat drained in hot water. This will satisfy every need the muscles could have if ingested right after workout. Also you get all the benefits of the post workout without the major insulin spike! And since insulin causes fat storage, you’ll get all the gainz without the fluff, or roughly 75% muscle and 25% added weight. But this ratio is better than the 3 times average dose of sugar in most protein shakes which basically undoes all the work you put in to lean out!
SO USE THIS AND GROW!
Hope this helps and let me know if you get the same benefits or have other advice in the comments 🙂