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If you strength and cardio train, you need to be eating…carbs?

Updated: Mar 6

You thought I was going to say protein, didn’t you?

You’re not wrong. Sufficient protein is critical to muscle synthesis, rebuilding muscle fibers bigger and stronger after you work out. We will focus more on protein in a future article, but for now, suffice to say that the most important points around protein are:

  1. Get enough and make sure some is “HBV” (high biological value), containing all 9 essential amino acids. Typically this means animal source. Go for clean and lean.

  2. Space it out throughout the day. The “anabolic window” has been found to be much longer than expected, though it varies, based on a lot of factors. Essentially though, if you are working out several times per week, your muscles are always rebuilding themselves, so you always need to be supplying them with plenty of high quality protein.

Here are some other facts I’ve been reminded of as I look carefully at the research:

  1. Your muscles need fuel to be able to work, and glucose is the easiest fuel for them to grab. Where does glucose come from? Carbohydrates.

For intense exercise, you will be able to work out harder and longer if you’ve recently eaten and digested some carbohydrate before your workout. You will also avoid breaking down muscle for fuel.

For prolonged and/or very high intensity exercise, you’ll benefit from a steady supply of fast-acting carbohydrates, as your glycogen (storage form of carbohydrate in your muscles and liver) and circulating blood glucose get depleted - your working muscles like to use both, as well as plenty of oxygen - so don’t forget to BREATHE!

2. Your muscles will continue to be “anabolic” for longer after your workout if you exercise in a “fed” rather than a fasting state - another reason to eat a nutritious snack or small meal about a ½ -1 hour before you workout. For example, Greek yogurt with some granola, a slice of whole grain toast with an egg, or an apple with a few slices of turkey.

3. Your body likes to use fat for fuel at rest and for prolonged low-intensity activity, so if you want to fast to burn body fat, do it when you’re not doing anything (i.e., stop eating after dinner), and enjoy a nice long walk in the woods.

Key Takeaway: Despite the popularity of the keto diet/low-carb/fasting diets, physically active people will get more out of their workouts if they regularly consume a combination of high quality Protein AND Carbohydrates.

By - Amy Toscano, RDN/LD, CFMHC

Ask Amy, LLC


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