As a part of our Men’s Monday series we will be discussing the most controversial of nutrients – carbohydrates. One of the most problematic myths that we come across is that carbohydrates are your worst enemy if you are looking to build muscle. Keep reading to find out why this is NOT true.

Functions of Carbohydrates

Technically, carbohydrates are not an essential nutrient, so we don’t need to eat them to survive. However, the primary functions of carbohydrates in the body are to provide energy, store energy, build macromolecules, and spare protein and fat for other uses. If we cut out carbs, our bodies can synthesise glucose but this comes at the cost of protein destruction.

In other words, starving your body of carbohydrates during and after periods of intense exercise can cause your body to use protein as an energy source. In severe cases of low carbohydrate for prolonged periods, this may even result in the breakdown of muscle proteins to be used as fuel during workouts or to replenish muscle glycogen after training.

How much do I need?

The amount of carbs you should be eating per day depends on your body size, physical activity level, and goals. Most fitness professionals agree that carbohydrates should make up 50% of your daily calorie intake. So, if you are consuming 2,000 calories daily, 1,000 of these calories should be coming from carbohydrates, which equates to 250 grams of carbohydrates.

When should I consume carbohydrates?

As mentioned above, you need carbs to fuel your workouts and maximise the amount of effort you can put in. Thus, 30-45 minutes before you workout is the perfect time to eat easily digestible carbohydrates. Bananas are known as nature’s ‘power bar’, they will provide you with 27g of carbs and are the perfect pre-workout fuel.

After your workout is also great time to consume carbohydrates, as that is when your muscles need glycogen stores to recover the most. Additionally, carbohydrates stimulate the release of insulin, which helps your tissues to take up more protein. After a workout, eating carbs with protein in a roughly 2:1 ratio can help your body utilise the protein most effectively.

What is the difference between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ carbs?

Eating the wrong type of carbohydrates at the wrong time is likely why carbs get such a bad reputation! Eating candy that’s made up of mostly high glycemic sugars certainly won’t help you achieve that shredded look you are after.

When choosing carbs always remember that brown and unrefined is your friend; brown bread, brown pasta, sweet potato, and brown rice rather than their white refined versions. This will help maintain optimal insulin levels which will eliminate the trigger of fat storage in the body, while providing you with the energy you need to power through your workout. Have a look at the list below for glycemic index (GI) values of different carbs, the lower the better!

Food GI Value

Apple 38

Banana 52

Brown Rice 55

Cornflakes 93

Doughnut 76

Mangos 56

Mixed Nuts 20

Oats 55

Potato 85

Soft Drink 63

Sweet Potato 54

Sugar 100

White Bread 71

White Pasta 58

White Rice 64

Wholegrain Bread 50

Wholewheat Pasta 37