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Expert Guides

All You Need to Know about Carbohydrate Supplements

Publish date: 19/07/2013

The perception that carbs are a strict no-no is mistaken perception and carbohydrates can actually help in muscle mass gain, prevent muscle loss and actually boost metabolism. In this article we tell you how carbohydrates can helps you in achieving your goals.

What are Carbohydrates and What do they Do?

Carbohydrates can be divided into four categories, viz. monosaccharides, disaccharides, oligosaccharides, and polysaccharides. While monosaccharides and disaccharides commonly called sugars or carbs, oligosaccharides and polysaccharides are commonly called complex carbs.

Carbohydrates are the preferred source of energy for metabolism, even though the body obtains its energy from sources like protein and fats. When the body does not need the energy that it can get from glucose it can store it up in the form of glycogen which can later be broken down into glucose to serve as an energy source. Glycogen is a crucial ingredient during training. In case the body’s glycogen stores are full in both liver and muscle tissue it gets converted into fat. This is the reason that they have earned a bad reputation. However, when you are exercising regularly and your body needs a constant source of glycogen, they actually add to your effort.

How do Carbohydrates Help during Training

While exercising, your muscles use energy in the form of ATP, which again needs to be replaced to continue a steady supply of energy for your muscles. The body replaces ATP by glycolysis to supply energy. Glycolysis is a process wherein glucose is broken down to release energy that will be used to replace ATP stores and that is how carbs come in handy to help supply energy to your muscle cells. If you don’t take enough carbohydrates, the glucose level in your blood will be depleted quickly as will your glycogen levels to supply the energy required. Carbs thus ensure that you can continue to train hard and finish your routine. Understandably without help from carbohydrates, you will not be able to gain muscle mass no matter how much protein and other supplements you take. Moreover, carbohydrates help in muscle growth by helping in release of insulin which increases protein synthesis.  Insulin is also anti-catabolic since it arresting the levels of cortisol and helps in preventing muscle break down. Thus it is important that you take high glycemic index carbs right before and after your training to keep your body going. Including carbs after workout helps in replenishing your glycogen reserves which ultimately leads to quicker muscle recovery and build up.

Where Should you get your Carbohydrates from- Food or Supplements

You should get your carbs from a mix of both food and supplements. Both of these have some advantages that you can capitalise on. Supplements are easily digestible while food takes a longer time. So supplements will help you get insulin spikes and food can help you help you from getting cravings over a longer time period.

What Carbohydrate Supplements Should you Have

The most advised ones are high glycemic supplements like dextrose, maltodextrin, and waxy maize, which are to be have taken right before and after your workout session. While dextrose is a simple sugar and the fastest acting one, maltodextrin is a complex carb that is not pure glucose and is not sweet to taste. Dextrose is the usual choice for the obvious reasons but Maletodextrin is suggested for those who are intolerant to sugar and do not want their shakes to taste sweet. Waxy Maize is a high molecular weight complex carb which can be absorbed very quickly and helps to replenish glycogen stores.

When to have Carbs and How Much of It

Usually it is best to take carbs at breakfast, high glycemic carbs right before and after your training.  The serving in the moirning helps your body replenish its stores after night long fasting and the servings before and after your workout helps to maintain glycogen levels and prevent muscle catabolism by enhancing insulin levels. You may also consider taking a slow digesting carb like a fruit before bed.

To understand how much of carb you should eat in a day, you need to know how much of protein and fat you are getting for the day. The remaining calories can be supplied by carbs. It is also important to include fibre in your diet along with everything else.

Author: Mike