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Intense lifting: Should I include carbs in every meal or can I keep it to only post workout?

Answered on September 12, 2014
Created July 23, 2013 at 11:38 AM

I eat pretty low carb. Lots of meat, lot of green veggies, a glass or two of well fermented kefir and hardly any fruit. On a typical day where I won't add any sweet potatoes I'll probably be on 50-75g of carbs.

Weekly training

  • Intense weight lifting with med rep/low reps progressing in weight, every set failure (45-60 mins, 4 days)
  • 25 minutes speed walking with a very brief sprint/stair run (4 days)
  • Sometimes 45 mins or so of cardio involving jump rope/boxing (1 day)

The problem is that with my low carb intake I always seem to get the low carb flu/glycogen depletion after a week or so and I start falling asleep at work. I know that I have to eat more carbs but I'm wondering if I should throw in some sweet potato with all my meals, or just some carbs post workout?

I made a meal plan where I would have about 150-200g of sweet potato post workout along with a piece of sugary fruit and a carrot/beet smoothie + 6 egg whites or some kangaroo meat (all protein) for protein

Ideally I want to keep my carb intake as low as possible in order to stay lean and keep burning fat fuel efficiently but I don't want to go flat and burn out and have to miss a training day or lose strength either. Call me paranoid, but I also don't like the idea of feeding my body starchy/carby stuff too much for the sake of not feeding any nasties, that's why I was planning to keep it post workout only so that all the carbs/fructose goes to the muscles.

So should I...

  1. Eat a bit of sweet potato with every meal
  2. Eat a bit of sweet potato with every meal and then some extra carbs post workout
  3. Eat a bunch of carbs only post workout, and only on workout days?
  4. What's a sensible intake assuming I want to burn fat efficiently without my muscles going 'flat'?

Thanks

C45d7e96acd83d3a6f58193dbc140e86

on July 24, 2013
at 01:10 PM

Eat to fuel your body, so what you described above sounds adequate. If you are feeling flat, eat more.

4cef120270c742b7f0094b05c617636f

(181)

on July 24, 2013
at 09:23 AM

I meant *plateaus*

4cef120270c742b7f0094b05c617636f

(181)

on July 24, 2013
at 09:22 AM

The meal that I just had that is...

4cef120270c742b7f0094b05c617636f

(181)

on July 24, 2013
at 09:21 AM

That worked out to be 40g carbs, 65g protein, 35g fat and 800 calories

4cef120270c742b7f0094b05c617636f

(181)

on July 24, 2013
at 09:16 AM

Would this be a good post workout meal? 1. A bit of sugary fruit first, followed by a 20 minute wait 2. 200g salmon 3. 100g sweet potato Reason I'm asking is because I think I overdid it a bit today. I had about 300g of salmon, 200g of sweet potato and almost a whole decent sized avocado.

4cef120270c742b7f0094b05c617636f

(181)

on July 24, 2013
at 09:12 AM

Just eat more fruit throughout the day or just have some fruit before I have my post workout meal?

Ca2c940a1947e6200883908592956680

(8574)

on July 24, 2013
at 07:29 AM

I believe the purpose is just that, you fill your liver first by fructose which will then allow glucose to go towards muscle glycogen. But in my mind, why not just eat more glucose. :)

4cef120270c742b7f0094b05c617636f

(181)

on July 24, 2013
at 06:27 AM

In regard to the kangaroo meat, I buy the steak fillets. I fry them in coconut oil or ghee (sometimes olive oil) and I fry them until they they're rare or medium rear at the absolute most.

4cef120270c742b7f0094b05c617636f

(181)

on July 24, 2013
at 06:24 AM

The only reason I was only eating the whites post workout is because I was trying to have only protein and carbs and not mix it with fat. I guess I was just being paranoid, I'll eat the whole egg with the rest of the protein and carbs now

4cef120270c742b7f0094b05c617636f

(181)

on July 24, 2013
at 06:13 AM

Good advice. I'll re-feed on carbs with every intense workout, and sometimes I'll give it a miss and I'll re-feed on the second workout instead. I tried lifting after not eating for 3 hours and I had no strength and felt very uncoordinated, just couldn't get the intensity happening like that. I heard that you might be more anabolic post workout if you don't consume fat/carbs pre workout but I find that I perform best if I eat 1 - 2 hours before lifting. Besides, if you don't have all your strength and can't keep the intensity up then how are you supposed to conquer any plenteous you've hit?

3f1f6d5d00e4a2078a99a07e0a6b2aea

(170)

on July 23, 2013
at 01:45 PM

Super useful response -thanks!

C6648ab69e5a1560c7585fe3ba7108fb

(880)

on July 23, 2013
at 01:32 PM

A note: fructose is not a good replenisher of muscle glycogen. It rapidly replenishes liver glycogen, but it is not easily converted into glycogen that can be sent to muscles. This is why most body builders avoid fructose, because after liver glycogen is replenished, excess fructose is stored in fat cells. However, I think those body builders are crazy, because fruit is delicious.

C6648ab69e5a1560c7585fe3ba7108fb

(880)

on July 23, 2013
at 01:32 PM

Seconded. If you're doing lifting 4 times a week plus HIIT (the sprints), you don't need to worry about moving out of "fat-burning mode" just by adding some sweet potato to your diet. Eat them at every meal if you'd like and you'll still stay lean. And yes, if you do not eat the egg yolk, you are missing out on most of the nutrients in the egg, including the very important choline. Also, egg whites, being devoid of fat, make it hard to absorb fat-soluble vitamins ;)

312537f2ecb216c830c3fd351efcfbbc

(110)

on July 23, 2013
at 01:04 PM

I agree, eat the entire egg or atleast the yolk and some white.

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3 Answers

3
Ca2c940a1947e6200883908592956680

(8574)

on July 23, 2013
at 01:01 PM

I believe the science shows that it does not make a difference when you eat your carbs (or fat, protein) but rather that you eat them or not.

I once read a study that showed a week of low carb dieting though unregulated fat-oxidising enzymes, didn't actually increase skeletal muscle oxidative capacity. Interestingly another study showed that training fasted actually had a glycogen sparing effect in comparison to being carbohydrate fed. Which makes sense of course if you think about it.

Whilst trying to find those studies I found this: http://www.nutrition.org/asn-blog/2011/04/enhancing-fatty-acid-oxidation-in-skeletal-muscle-ppar-attention-to-this/

Training in the fasted or glycogen depleted state has the potential to alter the metabolic machinery within type I muscle fibers. Several studies indicate that consistent training in a glycogen depleted state generally results in increased capacity of muscles to oxidize fatty acids through changes in enzyme activity, fatty acid transporter proteins, and gene expression resulting in increased fatty acid oxidation by mitochondria (1, 5). Interestingly, athletes utilizing carbohydrate depletion training methods also show improved ability to resynthesize muscle glycogen post-exercise (1). The implications to athletes are substantial, considering that this training may also facilitate glycogen sparing when carbohydrates are consumed during a race (6). Thus not only would an athlete start a race with optimal muscle glycogen content, but also be able to protect these stores until race conditions demand their use, such as a sprint finish.

Which contradicts what I read about oxidative capacity initally, so will need to look into this further.

The difference from what I can take from everything I have read, is how much you eat, glycogen depletion, workout performance, recovery, circadian rhythms.

So personally it seems there is some benefit to what I call cycling glycogen levels. That being that working out in such a way to periodically deplete your levels and then refill them again seems worthwhile. The easiest means of this would be intermittent fasted training, or simply having two workout days back to back, and consuming carbohydrate post-workout on the second day only.

But again I think the health benefits of following the Perfect Health Diet recommendations of between 100g - 150g of carbohydrate daily seems better than just running low the whole time. A significantly arduous workout followed by a good meal would be fine, and personally this is simply what I do. I personally consume the majority of my carbs and calories post-workout in the evening as this also aids with circadian rhythm and recovery.

Having carbs or being fed in general before a workout in my mind is simply about how well you perform during the workout. I think this sometimes has more to do with the mind though, and I personally just take a lemon (no really) in my back pocket and take a suck every now and then. The zing (and perhaps a little sugar) gives me the motivation to push through.

I collected a bunch of links about back-loading carbs: http://bit.ly/12ayQWu if you are interested.

In terms of muscle loss, this only happens if you are not using them. It happens not with carbohydrate or calorie restriction. Use them or lose them is simply true. A study showed that people eating less than 1000kcal (I think it was 500kcal) a day held onto their muscle working-out twice a week.

So in short, I think consuming carbs is important though it probably matters very little when and in how many meals, from personal experience my biggest meal is my post-workout meal which seems ideal to place the carbs because I refill glycogen, get in more calories, more satisfying after a hard workout, and I sleep better.

4cef120270c742b7f0094b05c617636f

(181)

on July 24, 2013
at 09:23 AM

I meant *plateaus*

3f1f6d5d00e4a2078a99a07e0a6b2aea

(170)

on July 23, 2013
at 01:45 PM

Super useful response -thanks!

4cef120270c742b7f0094b05c617636f

(181)

on July 24, 2013
at 06:13 AM

Good advice. I'll re-feed on carbs with every intense workout, and sometimes I'll give it a miss and I'll re-feed on the second workout instead. I tried lifting after not eating for 3 hours and I had no strength and felt very uncoordinated, just couldn't get the intensity happening like that. I heard that you might be more anabolic post workout if you don't consume fat/carbs pre workout but I find that I perform best if I eat 1 - 2 hours before lifting. Besides, if you don't have all your strength and can't keep the intensity up then how are you supposed to conquer any plenteous you've hit?

2
C45d7e96acd83d3a6f58193dbc140e86

on July 23, 2013
at 12:50 PM

Quit counting your carbs and just eat some real food. Sure, have some sweet potato nearly every day. If you are doing the workout you say, you will not get fat on 150g carbs per day average, but don't feel like you have to count them. If you want to go lower on non workout days, that probably wouldn't hurt. Also, by eating just the egg whites, you are skipping the healthiest part of the egg. And as a side note, how are you cooking your kangaroo? I had ground kangaroo once, and frankly didn't care for it much, even though I generally love game meats. Good luck.

312537f2ecb216c830c3fd351efcfbbc

(110)

on July 23, 2013
at 01:04 PM

I agree, eat the entire egg or atleast the yolk and some white.

4cef120270c742b7f0094b05c617636f

(181)

on July 24, 2013
at 06:27 AM

In regard to the kangaroo meat, I buy the steak fillets. I fry them in coconut oil or ghee (sometimes olive oil) and I fry them until they they're rare or medium rear at the absolute most.

C6648ab69e5a1560c7585fe3ba7108fb

(880)

on July 23, 2013
at 01:32 PM

Seconded. If you're doing lifting 4 times a week plus HIIT (the sprints), you don't need to worry about moving out of "fat-burning mode" just by adding some sweet potato to your diet. Eat them at every meal if you'd like and you'll still stay lean. And yes, if you do not eat the egg yolk, you are missing out on most of the nutrients in the egg, including the very important choline. Also, egg whites, being devoid of fat, make it hard to absorb fat-soluble vitamins ;)

4cef120270c742b7f0094b05c617636f

(181)

on July 24, 2013
at 06:24 AM

The only reason I was only eating the whites post workout is because I was trying to have only protein and carbs and not mix it with fat. I guess I was just being paranoid, I'll eat the whole egg with the rest of the protein and carbs now

0
312537f2ecb216c830c3fd351efcfbbc

on July 23, 2013
at 01:05 PM

When I do eat a potato I love the delicious Japanese Sweet Potato found at Whole Foods. It has a purple skin and a yellow flesh.

Maybe the fruit avocado for the fat and carbs?

Do you like the nutritional powerhouse of sardines or small silver fish like herring?

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