Carbohydrates have gotten quite a bad rap lately with all this low carb stuff out there.
Are they responsible for fat gain?
Should bodybuilders avoid them?
The answer is no to both.
Carbohydrates are currently viewed as the main culprit for gaining body fat.
Ignored is the fact that carbohydrates are the preferred fuel source for your bodies – and brain’s – energy needs.
It’s carb energy that fuels your workouts.
There are two key components to carbohydrates that people need to understand
There are two types of carbohydrates, sugary or simple carbohydrates and complex, slower burning carbohydrates.
The other thing people need to understand about carbohydrates is that too many calories, of any type, can lead to fat gain.
With carbohydrates, people eat too many sugary carb foods, which also contain fat.
And while it’s true that you need carbohydrates for energy, you only need so much.
If you overload your energy needs and are not active enough to burn the excess calories, they will be stored as fat.
Most people are not that active and they also eat too many calories of all types, this is why obesity is the problem it is today.
Most people do not understand what a calorie is.
The production of energy is measured in calories.
The calorie content of a food is determined by measuring the amount of heat produced by that food in a laboratory device called a calorimeter.
Somewhere along the way, food became a matter of taste – the higher the fat and sugar content the better.
The basic function of food was forgotten.
As a bodybuilder, you should be concerned about your calorie needs and types, and also you should have at least an idea, and at best be keeping a diet log, of what you eat everyday – in terms of types of calories and total calories.
When trying to gain mass, you need around 2-3 grams per lb. of body weight of preferably complex carbohydrates.
If you have a high percentage of body fat, drop that amount to 1 ½ grams per lb. of body weight.
The only real times to take in simple carbohydrates are with the pre/post workout and morning shakes mentioned above.
As well, as a bodybuilder, you should have a far better understanding of carbohydrates than the average person.
As I said before, carbohydrates are the bodies preferred energy source.
Once ingested, they are turned into glucose, which, among other things, fuels muscular contractions and glycogen, which is stored in the muscles and liver for future use.
Without enough stored carbohydrate in the muscles, they take on a flat appearance and you lack the energy to train hard.
As long as your carb intake doesn’t overwhelm your energy needs, you do not have to worry about fat gains from carb intake.
Good Food Choices For Carbohydrates Are
- Fruit juice
- All sugars
Good Fruit Choices Include
The Institute of Medicine recommends adults consume 45 to 65 percent of their daily calories from carbohydrates.
Since carbohydrates contain 4 calories in each gram, calculate your carb requirements by dividing 45 to 65 percent of your calorie needs by four.
For example, if you require 2,000 calories per day aim to eat 900 to 1,300 calories from carbohydrates, or 225 to 325 grams of carbs each day.
Healthy, nutrient-dense carbohydrates are found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, low-fat milk, low-fat yogurt, nuts and seeds.
Carbs & sports
An experiment conducted by Dill, Edwards and Talbott demonstrated that carbs play a vital role as energy providers in sports:
Dogs had to run without carbohydrate intake; after 4 – 6 hours they were tired and hypoglycemic.
In the second round, the dogs were fed carbs while running and were able to keep going for 17 – 23 hours.
Therefore, it’s important to plan on ingesting carbohydrates before, during and after your training.
Plus, if we just fill up on protein WITHOUT any carbs, the body might be able to use only 10% of the protein because of a lack of insulin (which is produced by the body as soon as we eat carbohydrates).
Potatoes also contain good amounts of carbohydrates in the form of starch. 1 cup serving of boiled potatoes contains 31 grams of carbohydrates and a cup of mashed potatoes include 36 grams of carbs.
Hash browns have the highest amount of carbohydrates with 35% while french fries contain 27% of carbs.
Potatoes are also rich in potassium.
One medium sized potato has just 110 calories and is completely free of sodium, cholesterol and fat which make them a downright undeniable for any diet.
They also contain Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, fibers and iron.
2. Whole Grains:
Whole grains are an excellent source of complex carbohydrates and dietary fiber.
Almost every grain contains high levels of complex carbs and each whole grain contains bran and endosperm which provide different nutrients and other components that contribute to the health.
Some grains that contain carbohydrates include rice, corn, wheat, barley, oats and buckwheat.
Brown rice contains 38 mg of carbohydrates per serving.
Not only does brown rice provide our body with energy boosting carbohydrates but it also contains a good amount of fiber which aids digestion.
Whole grains have similar amounts and sometimes more disease fighting chemicals than many typical fruits and vegetables.
Whole grain improves digestive heath and help with weight management.
3. Citrus Fruits:
It is well known that citrus products are a good source of vitamins, minerals and dietary fibers which contribute to healthy growth, development and nutritional wellbeing of the body.
The main energy yielding nutrient in citrus fruits is carbohydrates.
Citrus contains simple carbohydrates, fructose, glucose and sucrose as well as citric acid which provide us with energy.
A medium sized grapefruit contains 18.5 carbs and 2.7 grams of fiber. 151 grams of oranges contain 14 g of carbohydrates.
Sweet and juicy berries are rich in pro-anthocyanin natural pigments and antioxidants.
Berries like strawberries, blueberries and blackberries also contain a significant amount of carbs.
Both blackberries and strawberries contain 14 grams of carbs while blueberries have a higher count of carbohydrates of 21 grams for 1 cup.
These berries also help to get rid of harmful oxygen from the body and protect the body against cancer and other infections.
Besides tasting great and being low in calories because of its high water content, watermelon is an excellent source of vitamin C.
Which is a major antioxidant and beta carotene thus providing a fair amount of Vitamin A which prevents cataract and improves eye sight.
½ cup of dices watermelons contain 5.5 grams of carbohydrates and has an average glycemic index of 72.
Delicious and crunchy apples are one of the most popular fruits and a favourite of health conscious, fitness lovers.
They also contain a healthy amount of carbohydrates. One apple contains 23 grams of carbohydrates.
You can also drink apple juice if you are not much fond of apples. One 8 oz. of apple juice contains 30 grams of carbohydrates.
It also contains phytonutrients and antioxidants that are indispensible for optimal health.
7. Sweet Potato:
Sweet potatoes provide us with ample carbohydrates to give us energy.
An eight ounce of sweet potato contains 240 calories and 55 grams of carbohydrates.
Sweet potato is low in sodium, and very low in saturated fat and cholesterol.
It is a good source of Dietary fiber, Vitamin B 5, Potassium, Vitamin A, vitamin C and manganese.
8. Nuts And Legumes:
Legumes rank next in importance to cereals as good food sources.
They contain more proteins than any other vegetable and thus are akin to animal meat in food value.
Just like grains, nuts and legumes are also rich in complex carbohydrates.
Apart from carbohydrates, they also contain proteins, omega 3 fatty acids and a range of vitamins and minerals.
They are also high in fiber which aids in digestion and helps in maintaining healthy weight.
Nuts and legumes which contain a good amount of proteins are lentils, chick peas, split peas, soybeans, kidney beans and pinto beans.
Cereals are a healthy way to start a day but measure the amount and be aware of the carb content.
Most of the ready to eat cereals contain a good amount of sugar even though they claim to be whole grain.
These cereals contain 98% of carbohydrates in contrast to homemade cereals like oats or rye which contain 13-15% of carbohydrates.
Other nutrient in cereals includes fiber, protein, zinc, iron and B vitamins. Oats are the healthiest option in breakfast to start the day.
10. Dry Fruits:
Dried fruits like kiwis, prunes and dates contain a good amount of carbohydrates along with other important fibers and vitamins so these can be used in moderation to satisfy your sweet tooth.
Dehydrated foods like apples, prunes, bananas are 88% carbohydrates while dried peaches, apricots and raisin contain around 75% if carbohydrates.
1/4 cup of raisins provides 45g grams of carbohydrates.
When adding carbohydrates to your diet, consider using dry fruits in salad, and baked desserts.
Bananas are high in fiber and potassium and one banana contains 24g carbs.
These also contain the highest amount of sugar than any other fruit.
They are also rich in vitamin B6, vitamin C and fiber.
Include at least one banana in your daily breakfast or you can add it to your cereals, fruit salads, yoghurts and milk shakes.
Bread supplies a significant portion of nutrients that are required for the growth and maintenance of health and wellbeing of the body.
It is a good source of vitamins, minerals, fiber and carbohydrates and is quite low in cholesterol and fat.
A slice of whole grain bread contains around 20 grams of carbohydrates. White bread contains even higher amount of carbohydrates.
Try to limit your bread intake or opt for brown bread instead of white bread.
Breads are also rich in fiber that keeps you full for a longer period of time and will control hunger.
White pasta and semolina pasta are high in carbs and glycemic acid.
Try to use quinoa pasta or wheat pasta instead and use some healthy vegetables as toppings.
Three cups of spaghetti pasta provides our body with 97g of carbohydrates.
Whole wheat pasta is also enriched with Vitamin B and iron which adds up to its nutritional value.
14. Green Vegetables:
Several green vegetables are also rich in carbs and they also contain important minerals and vitamins.
While you should minimize the consumption of simple carbohydrates, the low levels found in green vegetables are not harmful because of their high content of nutrients.
Peas, acorn squash and asparagus can contain upto 30 grams of carbohydrates.