Something I hear from clients way too often is the misconception of how to properly incorporate protein and carbs into their fitness plan. There is so much info online and most of us are like squirrels when it comes to focusing so where does that get us? Selectively reading information without truly knowing what we are reading!
A perfect example of this is carb loading. Carb loading is great…if you are going to run a marathon, but not if you are going to do a 30 minute intermediate cardio workout. Yet so many people eat a ton of carbs before their workout not knowing why they are doing it…but only because they read it in some magazine…or selectively read one sentence that said it’s healthy to eat a plate of lasagna before working out! Nice loop hole, but I’m sorry, it’s too good to be true.
Carbs and proteins each have their place in your fitness plan, but you need to understand why you are eating them so that you can properly achieve your goals. So, I’m going to break down the how and why of peri-workout carb and protein intake.
First things first. What does our body need these ever so complicated molecules for?
Our main source of energy
Tissue repair including muscle, hormone production and is a large component of our hair, nails, bones and blood.
What happens when this amazing miracle takes place inside of our body?
Our bodies utilize carbs for energy first, then once they run out of carbs they move onto fats and then finally proteins. So, if your goal is to lose body fat, why would you eat a bunch of carbs and delay the fat burning process? So often that is what people do because they don’t know why they carb load, they’ve just heard that you are supposed to eat carbs before you workout.
When we workout, especially strength training, our muscles are damaged…not in a bad way! After we are done working out, our insanely intelligent vessels knowns as the body, gets to work repairing those damaged muscles, and guess what? That process of rebuilding the muscles burns a ton of calories.
The process also lasts 24-48 hours. So long after we are done working out, we are still burning calories. But, we have to make sure that we provide our body with protein. There is a lot of debate as to when to eat protein—before or after your workout—.
So should I eat carbs before my workout or not? Should I eat protein after my workout or not? Here is the breakdown for you.
There is a difference between carb loading and eating carbs before your workouts. Carb loading is only beneficial if you are going to workout for more than 90 mins. Why? Because our bodies store unused carbs for later energy use. The longer we workout the more energy we need, thus the more carbs we need. The problem is, those stored carbs that aren’t used..yeah those turn to fat. So if you don’t workout long enough to burn up those stored carbs, you’ve just added on weight.
With that being said…remember the order that our body metabolizes carbs and protein? Carbs before protein right? Well if we don’t have enough carbs for our body to use for energy then it will move onto protein. But we need protein to rebuild muscle and burn calories! This is why we want some carbs but not a carb load.
Protein metabolism burns a ton of calories. When do we metabolize protein? When the muscle tissues have been damaged. When does that happen? Most often after strength training. This is why strength training is so effective for weight loss. However, our muscles are constantly going through this process, just at a much lower level, but none the less, muscle still burns more calories than fat. This leads me to another topic that I want to touch on briefly.
To tone or build?
In short, toning is merely the body burning off fat and strengthening the muscles giving the appearance of a more slender body. Building is actually adding on muscle mass and increasing the size of the muscle. Remember, we want muscle to quickly burn calories. So even if you want to tone, don’t completely eliminate muscle building. No you won’t bulk up. That’s a whole other post though.