Shun all carbs
If you want to put on muscle and burn fat, you should shun all carbs. Truth: Never mind the late Dr. Atkins—you need carbs to build a lean, muscular physique. Much of that, according to Skolnik, is because carbohydrates are the primary fuel for muscle cells during high-intensity workouts. A revved-up gym session burns a ton of calories and stimulates muscle growth, both of which translate into a leaner, meaner you. Take away all the pasta, rice and potatoes and your muscles may be forced to convert protein into energy—a definite contradiction to muscle growth.
Carbs are also a must after training because they, along with protein, stimulate muscle repair and hypertrophy. “Carbohydrates consumed postworkout will boost insulin levels that help drive protein into muscle cells,” Skolnik says. So don’t hold back too much on carbs—just keep your choices healthy. After all, research now shows that women don’t burn as many carbs as their male counterparts do during exercise, so you don’t need as much as sports nutritionists once thought.
Hers recommends that women involved in serious strength training aim for a daily carbohydrate intake of 1-1.5 grams per pound of bodyweight. Timing is important when your goal is to build muscle and burn fat. Breakfast, pre- and postworkout are the best times to consume carbs.
In your post-exercise meal, take in 20-30 grams of fast-digesting carbs, such as white breads and sugars, to boost insulin levels and drive muscle recovery. Otherwise, make sure most of your carbohydrates are in the form of whole grains, vegetables, fruits and dairy, all of which provide more nutritional benefit.