Carbohydrates

The most anabolic nutrient is carbohydrates. There are many myths about carbohydrates and I used to believe them too.

Since you need energy for your workouts, carbohydrates are a must. They are stored within your muscles as glycogen, meaning they are fuel for training intensely.

Doctors almost always recommend a diet high in carbohydrates (as much as 60% of your daily calories) but for bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts this is too much. Too much energy can easily get stored as body fat. We don't want that, do we?

There are no bad sources of carbohydrates, not even pure sugar is wrong if ingested at the proper times.

There are according to my opinion three especially important times when you should include carbohydrates: in the first meal in the morning, just before workout and in the following three hours directly after workout.

Pavel Ythjall

Photo: Pavel Ythjall (Sandhammaren, Sweden 2003)

In the morning, your muscles have been in a fasting state for several hours. You now want to raise your insulin a bit by eating a meal with carbohydrates. If you only have a protein shake, that protein may not reach your muscles at all, since insulin is needed for the nutrients to enter the muscle cells. I don't believe the muscles are preserved when just having a protein shake in the morning.

Pavel Ythjall
Photo: Pavel Ythjall (Outside Las Vegas, U.S.A 2003)
Pavel Ythjall Fitness
Photo: Pavel Ythjall (Outside Gold's Gym in Las Vegas, U.S.A 2003)

Bracketing before Workouts

Pavel Ythjall Photography

Before your strength workout, I use a strategy developed by scientists at AST sport science called the bracketing method.

This means having a small serving of dextrose and a serving of whey protein a couple of minutes before you start working out. After your workout you take another small serving of dextrose and another whey protein shake.

The majority of bodybuilders don't follow this since sugar inhibits fat to be burned during exercise.

So, why should you adopt this strategy? Because sugar raises your insulin levels and thus puts your body in an anabolic state. This means your muscles are primed for muscle building right before you start to break them down.

All training means muscle breakdown and in order to build muscle you need to be in a catabolic state as little time as possible.

When you only have protein for your pre workout meal, you will soon enter a catabol-ic state that will take a long time to stop.

The best way for natural muscle building is to let your body be in an anabolic state as much as possible, without gaining unnecessary body fat.

Pavel Ythjall Photos
Photo: Pavel Ythjall (Exhale Grand Prix, Västerls, Sweden 2004)

Will sugar inhibit fat burning during exercise? Yes! But don't feel anxious about that fact. When you train for building muscle mass, the most important thing is to train as hard as possible. You cannot do that without adequate energy from carbohydrates.

You burn body fat by gaining muscle mass, cardiovascular training and manipulating your diet.

Many people never have carbohydrates before cardio. They are being told it stops the fat burning process. These same people often do low-intensity cardio believing this is not breaking down muscle, just burning body fat.

Once again, the best way to burn fat and preserve muscle mass is to have carbohydrates before and after cardio training, but instead of doing low-intensity activities for long periods, you should work at maximum intensity.

Ultra high intensity burns carbohydrates during the activity, but it raises your metabolism for several hours after working out. Low-intensity cardio doesn't do that.

Why should you include carbohydrates before all your workouts? Well, just like during strength training, in a carbohydrate-depleted state, your start breaking down muscle mass since high intensity exercise uses carbohydrates as fuel. Without access to carbohydrates stored as glycogen, your body is forced to transform muscle protein into ketones that can be used as fuel for high intensity exercise.

By using the bracketing method, you can use high-intensity cardio workouts that raise your metabolism, thus burning fat for 24 hours, and keep your muscle mass.

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