Five Carb Facts You Need to Know

A must-read if you want to put on mass without adding bodyfat.

Five Carb Facts You Need to Know

People often ask me a lot of specific questions regarding protein and carbs, trying to dissect these two vital nutrients in hopes of creating a better nutrition plan. Using a broad brush, one could say that carbs energize the muscles, providing fuel for hard training, and that protein is the mortar — the building blocks that are incorporated into muscle tissue, causing gains in size. That’s all that most beginners and, possibly, intermediates need to know to pack on muscle mass. However, if you want to put on mass without adding bodyfat, if you are a little more advanced or hope to chisel your physique to drop bodyfat while retaining as much muscle as possible, read on. 



Carbohydrates are broken down into glucose, which the muscles use as an energy source to contract. In other words, your muscles “fire” and grind through a workout with the burning of glucose. The higher the reps you use, the shorter your rest periods; and the higher the training intensity you use, the more carbs you burn. Common sense says a severe shortage of carbs in the diet could compromise “how hard” you can train. So, if you’re looking to gain mass, at the least, have some carbs with your pre-workout and post-workout meal. 


When the digestive system breaks the carbohydrates you eat into glucose, the amount of glucose in your bloodstream at any given time ramps up the release of the hormone insulin. Insulin’s main role is to transport glucose directly into muscles where it can be stored and used at a later time. However, insulin also facilitates the entry of protein into muscles, allowing muscle fibers to repair themselves and recoup, leading to bigger muscles. This also includes amino-acid based supplements like creatine and carnitine. In addition, insulin also acts as an incredibly potent anabolic hormone. It turns on protein synthesis in muscle cells, which leads to muscle growth, and it shuts off muscle break- down. This is why carbs are considered anabolic, or muscle building; sure they give you energy, but they also set the stage for growth by work- ing with protein, effectively pushing amino acids into muscles and by acting as a strong signal to keep muscle growth maximized.


By now, who hasn’t used creatine and benefited greatly from it? Creatine is the raw ingredient that replenishes the phosphocreatine system in the body. That’s the energy system that comes into play immediately when you start blasting through a set. And, it’s responsible for serious gains in strength and muscle mass. Turns out, insulin, the hormone affected by carb consumption, plays a big role in facilitating pumping and the transfer of creatine from the blood into muscles where it can go to work. If insulin release is compromised, as the result of too few carbs, it’s possible that a lot of your supplemented creatine simply goes down the drain.


You can only use up so many carbs at any one time. Many of the carbs you eat are stored away inside of muscles in a form called muscle glycogen. Elevated levels of muscle glycogen are correlated with better growth. In general, a muscle pump is enhanced with greater glycogen stores, endurance or “how many” sets you can perform to exhaustion is upgraded and the water content within the muscle is affected, which helps maintain the muscle-building process.


Here's the downside to carbs. When glycogen levels become full, all additional incoming carbohydrates will be stored as bodyfat. Makes sense, right? At some point, enough is enough. Your muscles will fill with stored glucose (glycogen) and, after that, glucose is sent down fat-storing pathways. Insulin also plays a roll here. In chronically high amounts, the result of eating too many carbs all the time, or in individuals who simply gave a harder time dealing with carbs, insulin can become a noted fat storer, increasing the delivery of dietary fatty acids from the fat you eat into storage. Insulin can also seal offthat stored bodyfat, interfering with or slowing the fat-burning process. The remedy: keep track of your carb intake. If you start to see yourself loing your conditioning, drop back on your daily carb intake by 20-30%.




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