Make Your Carbs Count

Select and time your carbs to maximize your training and recovery.

Alissa Carpio | March 03, 2015

Pick a diet: IIFYM, vegan, gluten-free or just plain old clean eating. Carbs are an essential part of your nutrition plan for achieving your best health and fitness. But that’s where the simplicity ends. Questions on what type of carbs, when and in what amounts can create a whirlwind of confusion. To help clear up some of the chaos, this article will offer some suggestions on selecting and timing carb choices to maximize training and recovery.

It’s All About Timing

With summer fast approaching, you might be thinking about starting a cutting diet to shed some fat and reveal all of your winter gains in your new bikini. Since that typically involves reducing calories, your overall carbohydrate intake will diminish as well. So this is a time when it becomes important to maximize what carbs are in your diet by considering quality sources and efficient timing.

The National Strength and Conditioning Association recommends that strength athletes wishing to lose body weight should reduce their daily caloric intake by 500 calories, which would equate to a weekly fat loss of one pound. And regardless of daily energy needs, NSCA also recommends eating four to six small meals, snacks as needed, and eating before and after training. Therefore, regardless of amounts, nutrient-dense carbohydrates should be consumed at the following times: preworkout, postworkout, and at your first meal of the day if it’s not your preworkout meal. The balance of your carbohydrates can be equally divided amongst your remaining one to three meals or snacks.

Carb Type Matters

Since these three times are critical for carbohydrate consumption, energy-dense sources are your best bet here. That includes grains, starches, beans, legumes and even simpler forms such as fresh and dried fruit. Smaller amounts of carbohydrates are yielded from nutritious food choices such as fibrous and cruciferous vegetables and nuts. It should be noted that no studies have yet addressed carbohydrate type, timing and amount in relation to acute physiological adaptations in strength and power athletes, according to the NSCA.

Oxygen girls who lift regularly and consistently should be consuming low to medium glycemic index carbs throughout the day at each major meal, with one exception: postworkout. We’re familiar with the lower GI sources: whole grains and starches, including brown rice, oats, quinoa, beans and legumes, red and sweet potatoes, and fibrous vegetables. Postworkout, however, it’s ideal to ingest carbohydrates with a medium to high glycemic index to quickly replenish glycogen lost during your workout. Sources can include white bread, honey, dried fruit, and sports drinks.

Make dietary reductions in carbohydrates slowly and consistently, monitoring energy levels, mood and strength, in addition to tracking your fat loss progress. This will help you to fine-tune the carbohydrate amounts and sources that are optimal for you and your health and fitness goals.

About the Author

Alissa Carpio

Alissa is a personal trainer, online coach, and NPC Virginia judge. You can find more about her at Alissa Carpio Fitness.