For the longest time, it was believed that fat was the primary cause of weight gain and obesity. People struggled to survive low-fat diets, hoping and praying to lose weight. However, in recent years, the focus has shifted to carbs being the “villains” of the weight loss world. Carbs are the nutrient most likely to cause weight gain and an increase in body fat.
But is that really the case? Are carbs really all that bad for you, or is it just our need for a villain that makes us reject carbs? According to a study out of the University of Surrey in England, eating carbs at the right time could be the key to serious weight loss. More specifically, it can help to increase the amount of fat you burn. So when is this “right time” to eat carbs?
A team of researchers from the University of Surrey partnered with the BBC show Trust Me I’m a Doctor to prove that their original study works. According to their initial data, men who ate carbs immediately following a workout burned more fat during the three hours after their workout than if they ate carbs before the workout. Women, however, burned more fat when eating carbs BEFORE their workout.
In the study, participants performed three different workouts per week: spinning, HIIT, and Zumba. The study lasted over the course of a month, during which time the men and women each were given a carb-heavy drink either before or after their workout session. The participants were monitored during each session and over the month-long training course, with their body weight and BMI measured.
Once again, the results were visible: men who consumed carbs after exercising burned more fat post-workout than they did if they consumed carbs before. Women who consumed carbs before exercise burned more fat post-workout than they did if they consumed more carbs before.
How to Do it Right
So, how should you go about adding more carbs to your diet, specifically at these right times? It’s actually a lot easier than you think:
For Women — Women, you don’t want to eat too many calories’ worth of carbs before your workout–no more than 300 to 500, depending on the intensity of your workout. A smaller intake of carbs/calories will help you to have the energy needed for the workout, but won’t fill up your stomach or affect your digestion during your workout.
For Men — Men, try to limit yourself to 200 to 400 calories’ worth of food after your workout, with the focus placed on carbs over protein or fat. You should still include both protein and healthy fats into your post-workout snack, but make it mostly carbs. This will help to replenish the energy you have used up during your training session, and will help to increase your fat-burning.
Now comes the most important question: what kind of carbs to eat? Ideally, a pre-workout snack should contain very little fiber, as fiber can expand in your stomach. This will interfere with your workout, and can lead to cramps or stomach pains. You should consume a small amount of fiber, but focus on simple carbs with protein and fats to slow down digestion. After the workout, you can consume complex carbs (with fiber to slow down digestion rate), but you want to consume enough simple carbs to give you a quick energy boost. Add a bit of protein and fat to help replenish burned energy, and you’ll see the results you want!