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We constantly tell bodybuilders about the muscle-building benefits of protein. It plays a direct role in muscle development by providing the body with amino acids. However, looking at the larger picture, muscle growth is not solely dependent on protein consumption. Carbohydrate consumption also plays an active role. In fact, the amount of carbohydrates stored inside muscles — called muscle glycogen — can determine whether or not muscles remain in an anabolic, or muscle-building, state. How vital are well-stocked glycogen stores? Protein intake above and beyond what reputable nutritionists say is “enough” won’t boost muscle mass if glycogen stores are too low. On the other hand, if glycogen stores are full, chances of faster recovery and improved growth markedly increase.
So, why not simply load up on carbs in hopes of getting huge? Because consuming too many carbs creates the potential of increasing bodyfat. Taking steps to ensure that carbs are stored in muscles rather than as fat is half the battle in building Pillsbury Doughboy. In this article, I’ll explain how to build glycogen stores without increasing bodyfat stores.
Eating multiple daily meals leads to greater glycogen storage with less fat storage. For example, if you eat 450 grams (g) of carbohydrates daily divided among three meals, your body will digest those carbs in 150 g increments. Some will head toward muscles to make muscle glycogen, and some will be stored as fat. Splitting the same daily amount evenly among six meals (75 g per meal) will take away from their ability to uptick fat storage, leaving more for muscle glycogen. The result of splitting the same number of carbs among six meals a day is greater glycogen storage for better growth and fewer carbs stored as bodyfat.
Carbohydrates eaten before you train help power your workout and spare the breakdown of muscle tissue. Therefore, pretraining carbs have a job to do: fuel your training. Consequently, relatively few are stored as bodyfat. Carbohydrates eaten after training refill muscles with glycogen before having any ability to increase bodyfat storage. Carbs consumed before and after training protect your body against muscle breakdown and support glycogen levels, ultimately helping your body to grow. When carbs are performing an anabolic role — supporting growth — they are not making you fat.
No, you don’t have to take a blood test. Insulin sensitivity is a fancy description for a body’s ability to handle carbohydrates. If carbs make you tired or tend to quickly smooth out your physique, you’re likely to be more “insulin resistant” than an average person. For our purposes, this means that you likely pump out more insulin than someone who gets a lot of energy from carbs or does not gain bodyfat quickly by eating them.
If you are insulin resistant, you should stay away from sugar, juices, refined carbs (such as rice cakes), cold cereals, mashed potatoes and white rice. Instead, choose slowerburning carbs, such as red potatoes, yams, brown rice, pasta and buckwheat noodles. Their slowerburning character tends to facilitate the storage of glycogen instead of the storage of bodyfat by keeping insulin release at moderate levels.
When you eat fewer carbs, your body undergoes all kinds of changes. Interestingly, your muscles start to “crave” carbohydrates. With fewer carbs, the ability of your muscles to utilize them — rather than store them as bodyfat — actually increases. When you return to eating more carbs, virtually all of them are stored in your muscles, making your physique look fuller and more impressive. This increase in glycogen stores triggers and supports protein synthesis, meaning that your muscles grow. So, pulling back on your carb intake for two or three days can actually help you grow. Just be sure to keep your protein intake a little higher during a carb cutback to protect against potential muscle breakdown, which is sometimes associated with a decrease in carbohydrate intake.
Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) is an antioxidant supplement that also improves muscle glucose uptake by mimicking the action of insulin on muscle cells. The benefit is that carbs are more readily removed from blood and stored in muscles as glycogen. Greater glycogen storage translates into more energy and muscle growth, and it also staves off bodyfat storage. Try taking 100-200 milligrams two or three times a day with higher carb meals.
Acetic acid is found in vinegar. Yes, what you use on salads and vegetables. Touted in folk remedies, vinegar actually does have some benefits. Through the ages, vinegar has been used to increase appetite, offset fatigue and boost mineral absorption. Vinegar increases the absorption of calcium and, in animal studies, vinegar has been shown to augment glycogen formation — therein lies “offsets fatigue.” Vinegar may help prevent fatigue by improving the body’s ability to load carbohydrates into muscles (rather than allowing the carbs to flow into fat-storing pathways, which contributes to a lack of energy and vitality). Try adding three or four tablespoons of vinegar to your pre- and posttraining meals.
Omega-3 fatty acids are the fats in fish oil and flaxseed oil that help muscles become more receptive to the anabolic effects of insulin. Your body releases insulin when you consume carbohydrates, and insulin has an anabolic effect, helping to push carbohydrates into muscles. At the same time, insulin also has a bodyfatstoring effect. It can push those same carbohydrates toward fat storage and increase enzymes that help manufacture bodyfat.
Omega-3 fatty acids can help create an anabolic effect by allowing muscles to “pull” carbs in — with the help of insulin. This not only increases glycogen storage, but it also minimizes the ability of insulin to store carbs as bodyfat. Take 5-6 g of omega-3s per day.
Carbohydrates present bodybuilders with their biggest dietary dilemma. It’s virtually impossible to get muscles to grow without carbs, but it’s hard to keep bodyfat stores from swelling with them. Bodybuilders sometimes need a little help to coax their bodies to use carbs for muscle building rather than for bodyfat. If you follow the seven suggestions presented here, you’ll be able to make much more muscle — and far less bodyfat — out of the carbs you’re consuming on your bodybuilding diet. – FLEX