Carbohydrates are one of the most important food groups, thanks to the fact they provide your body with a hefty dose of quick-acting energy. Fats are an alternative source of energy, but they require a lot longer for your body to burn through. If you need to replenish energy burned by intense physical activity or exercise, carbs are your best choice.
The Problem With Carbs
Unfortunately, carbohydrates can often do more harm than good. Our bodies have grown dependent on carbs, so we end up craving them to an unhealthy amount. We eat a lot of refined sugars and flours and grains that contain no fiber and very little in the way of nutrients. Thus, we provide calories, but nothing to slow down absorption rate. We end up putting a lot of calories in our bodies all at once, which causes a blood sugar rush that ultimately leads to higher instances of stored fat. Carbs are more likely to cause fat gain than fats, which is why so many people have begun to go on low-carb diets in the last few years.
When Are Carbs Good?
However, there are times when carbs are your best choice for eating. 90% of the time, this is right after physical exercise. According to one study from the University of Surrey, post-exercise carb consumption led to a drastic increase in fat burning. The men who ate carbs right after an intense workout burned more fat in the three hours following their workout than men who ate carbs before their training session. If you want to increase fat-burning, you should try to follow up your workout with a carb-heavy snack.
Men and Women Are Different
One thing you need to know is that the study above found that men and women react differently to carbs and exercise. While the men increased fat burning by eating carbs after a workout, women actually burned LESS fat if they had a post-workout carb snack. Instead, they saw better fat burning when they consumed carbohydrates prior to their workout. For women, eating carbs (a small quantity) before heading to the gym for your training session is the key to finding the right time to eat carbs.
How Carbs Help to Burn Fat
Carbs provide your body with glucose, or blood sugar, the primary energy source. When you have a lot of available glucose in your system before working out, you activate the mechanisms in your body that turn muscle into fat. Thus, for men, eating AFTER working out is the key to fueling muscle growth. The exercise will burn through your available glucose stores, and eating provides more of the glycogen required to repair and restore muscle damaged by your workout.
The Right Types of Carbs
If you’re going to eat carbs, make sure it’s the right type! In the case of post-workout snacking, you want something that contains a small amount of fiber, such as brown bread, brown rice, or fruit. The fiber will slow absorption rate and prevent a blood sugar spike, but the high sugar/carb content of the food will ensure that you have plenty of energy available for muscle repair and recovery. For women snacking on carbs before working out, try to avoid anything with fiber. Fiber can increase bloating and gastrointestinal upset during your workout. You want to stick with simple carbs, such as a piece of white bread, a bit of jam, or a piece of fruit. Too much fiber can mess with your workout, so stick with low-fiber foods if you’re looking for a good pre-workout snack.