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Carbohydrates for bodybuilding

Carbohydrates for bodybuilding


Whether forbuild muscleOr to lose fat, sugar consumption is involved at every level. This is whatmacronutrientwhich provides energy to the muscles during intensive training.

Like fats and proteins, the carbohydrates in sugar must be consumed at regular intervalsat well-defined frequencies and quantitiesIt's also important to choose the right carbohydrate source. That's what we'll be looking at in this article.

Types of sugar and their advantages and disadvantages

Generally speaking, sugars are represented by thecarbohydrates. There are several types of sugar: table sugar (sucrose), which is the most widely consumed and best known, fruit sugar (fructose) and a third, milk sugar (lactose).

All the sugar you consume will be transformed into sugarglucose.The latter will be burned as energy by the body or stored in the liver and muscle fibre in the form ofglycogen.

Carbohydrates are categorized and classified according to their number of molecules.

In this classification, we find monosaccharides, disaccharides and polysaccharides.

Monosaccharide orsimple sugarsContain a single sugar molecule.

Although they share the same designation, they are nevertheless processed differently by the body, and their action differs according to their nature. For example, fructose, one of the nutritional elements vital to the body, is thebetter processed sugars.The glucose produced then promotes fat synthesis.

Many people mistakenly think that sucrose contains just one sugar, when in fact it's made up of glucose and fructose. It is in factthe most widely consumed sugar in the West.As for lactose (found in milk), it contains the galactose molecule in addition to glucose.

This carbohydrate, unlike fructose,is known to have a less sweet tasteThan other nutrients in the same group. However, lactose is not suitable for everyone, due to the many intolerances associated with its consumption, which generally lead to gastrointestinal problems.

It is in this sense thatseveral products, including protein powders, mention the presence or absence of lactose.As for the third sugar,polysaccharides or complex carbohydratesThey are essentially made up of starches and fibers. Starches are known to be rich in carbohydrates.

They are very present in pasta, rice, beans, potatoes, roots, etc. For a healthy diet,it is strongly recommended to concentrate on starchy foods and plants containing starch. Thanks to their high carbohydrate content, they provide a good nutritional balance for your body.

Choose carbohydrates over simple sugarsWhich should be consumed in moderation or to a limited extent.

Carbohydrates for sport: The difference between fast and slow sugars

As we have just seen, carbohydrates, once consumed, are converted into glucoseprocessing time is not always the same for all foodsFor example, sweet foods such as fruit or table sugar quickly lead to glucose. These foods are classified as "fast sugars"as they are rapidly transferred into the bloodstream (as glucose) andcause very high insulin production.

On the other hand, starchy foods and vegetables, as well as certain fruits, fall into the category of "slow sugars "In this case, the transformation into glucose takes longer, as it takes place in the intestine before being injected into the bloodstream. Glucose enters the bloodstream more slowly,insulin is therefore not produced suddenly, which tends to regulateblood sugar levels.

In this sense, it is highly recommended,forhave energy, to use this second category of carbohydrate and try as much as possible to avoidfast sugars. But we can easily fall into the trap of confusion, as some foods have a much higher glycemic index than table sugar.

For example, a potato has a glycemic index of around 80, while table sugar (sucrose), which athletes tend to avoid, has a glycemic index of only 59 (glucose has an index of 100).

This is a trap to be wary of, as many people persist in believing that potatoes are a slow sugar. To avoid this confusion, it's best not to dwell on the semantic definitions between carbohydrate foods: the term "sugar" is used for both carbohydrate foods and sucrose.

glycemic index

The experience of diabetics can tell us more about menu composition. This population does not tolerate white bread, as its consumption can lead to ahyperglycemiaCombined with a loss of glucose in the urine.

It's precisely to help diabetics make the right food choices thatglycemic indexWas established. The research even led to a classificationcarbohydrate foods according to their glycemic index. The index corresponds to the rate of conversion of the food and therefore of the amount of glucose in the blood. When you're training, it's best to choosefoods with the highest indexTo guarantee rapid energy savings. 

On the other hand, for athletes who want to stabilize glucose levels as well asobtain deferred energy, in this case, it's best to turn to foods with low indexes. In this configuration, lactose (milk) and fructose (fruit) have relatively low indices, while potatoes, white bread and white rice have high indices.

That being said, bodybuilders and athletes who are not affected by diabetes can consume rice, potatoes and honey in moderation toreplenish glycogen.Whether in the morning on an empty stomach, or after intensive training, you can replenish your glycogen stores by choosing any carbohydrate, especially those with the highest index if you're looking togain energy fast.

Nevertheless, the rate at which glucose enters the bloodstream is influenced by the mixture of proteins and lipids. The indices we have just presented correspond toisolated consumption of carbohydrate foodsAnd not to the consumption of mixed foods.

Although the glycemic index is important and useful, it doesn't seem to have the same impact on our meals. For example, if we eat potatoes with foie gras or cheddar cheese,the glycemic index drops considerablyDue to the presence of fats in these two foods. The same applies to sweet butter and dried almonds, or peanuts.

Lovers of ice cream can have a field day because its high lipid content tends to delay digestion, systematically delaying the conversion of sucrose to glucose in the blood by the liver. Most simple and compound sugars are converted to glucose in the bloodstream afterseven minutes of their consumption. These simple sugars are recommended during muscular effort, but strongly discouraged at rest, as the insulin response is observed during this period.

That's right,insulin is only secreted in the body at rest, on the other hand,the drive causes it to stopBecause muscular effort tends to mobilize the body's glucagon reserves.

Carbohydrates: Storage and dietary needs

We always hear about essential fatty acids oramino acidssBut never essential carbohydrates.

While vital nutritional requirements are met by essential nutrients, energy needs can be amply satisfied by the synthesis of lipids, proteins and protids. Our body then stores glucose for later use as fuel. With a normal diet, the body can synthesize up to 20% of calories as protein, 30% as fat and 50% as carbohydrates.

For all these reasons, sports nutritionists recommendreduce or replace fats withcarbohydratesTo develop endurance during intensive training sessions.

The proportion of carbohydrates can be reduced to 10% without harming the body. Nevertheless,there are a number of organs that cannot function at optimum efficiency without glucose, these include the lens, the adrenal gland, the nervous system and red blood cells.

These organs consume an average of 180 to 245g per day. This consumption adapts within a few days to the diet, as in the case of fasting, for example. The brain also adapts by consuming ketone bodies (a fatty acid derivative) instead of carbohydrates, which tends to reduce glucose requirements by up to 100g.

That's why we can't talk about an essential need for carbohydrate-rich foods, becausethe body is capable of synthesizing it and even adapting to its needs.

The body can store calories in two ways: one in the form ofmusclesAnd in the liver in the form of glycogen reserves and the second in the form of fat.

The difference between these two reserves lies in their quantities and uses: the glucose stored in the form of glycogen is not as abundant as that stored in fat reserves in the event of overeating:Excess glucose is transformed into lipids and therefore fat.

Adipose reserves also result from excessive consumption of amino acids contained in proteins. To understand the role of these reserves in regulating blood sugar levels, we can consider that from a period offasting for eight to ten hours, the glycogen stores are automatically depleted as a result of high glycogen consumption during exercise.

The liver of an adult can store around 140g of glycogen, while the muscles can store approximately 600g for a muscle mass of 40kg. The combination of these two reserves gives us 740g of glycogen which, once synthesized, provides the body with 2960 calories. However, the glycogen reserves in themuscles don't help maintain glucose levelsAnd are not involved in supplying glucose-dependent organs, unlike hepatic glycogen (from the liver).

During prolonged fasting, the body consumes amino acids from the muscle, and can convert up to 58% of proteins into glucose, as well as a small proportion of fats.During physical exertion, lactic acid secreted by the muscles can also be converted into glucose by the liver and released into the bloodstream in the form of glucose.

Therefore, even in the event of noncarbohydrate consumption, in the end, the body builds up its stock of glucose from muscle proteins.

As far as fat stores are concerned, they consist mainly of triglycerides forming three fatty acids linked to a glycerol molecule (an alcohol that can be recovered to produce glucose). This is the only form of fat that can be converted into glucose. Technically speaking, metabolizing glucose and fatty acids in the cytoplasm of cells leads to the creation of a common intermediate body:acetyl coenzyme A.

This body then enters the cellular organelles known as mitochondria in order tocreate energyVia oxidative phosphorylation or addition of phosphorus and oxidation of the phosphate compound. This process is calledKrebs cycle. It is known to be particularly slow to the point of accumulation of acetyl coenzyme A, in response to excess carbohydrates and lipids,leads to high fat storage.

The link between sugar, hypoglycemia and obesity

It's important to distinguish between controlled hypoglycemia (low blood glucose) and uncontrolled hypoglycemia.

Table sugar, or sucrose, is one of the main causes of hypoglycemia. Because of itsrapid absorptionIn the blood, itrapidly triggers insulinBy the pancreas, which transports and stores it in the cells. In contrast, and contrary to popular belief,sugar depletes the blood of glucoseBecause the latter is at the origin of blood sugar levels, which involve insulin: it's a vicious circle.

Lack of glucose in the blood triggers hunger and therefore leads to eating more sweet products.

In the long term, nibbling and poor nutrition lead in most cases toobesity. Some people have even developed a proven addiction to sugar. On the other hand, if hypoglycemia is deliberately induced on the basis of a diet that does not includecarbohydrateOr via aintensive sports program, in this way, you can get rid of the excess fat stored in your body.

In fact, a significant drop in carbohydrates in a perfectly healthy adult leads to the rapid consumption of fat reserves.

This is partly thanks to the adrenal glands, which secrete adrenaline under these conditions, improving brain perfusion and lipolysis.Eventually, the pancreas triggers glucagon, which is responsible for converting glycogen into glucose, which tends to increase lipolysis, regulates the creation of glucose from lactic acid, glycerol and even several amino acids.


This process is called the pituitary gland,triggers the growth hormone that promotes muscle development and fat loss.

Finally, taking sugar won't necessarily make you obese. It won't give you more calories per gramthat proteinsOr fats, which provide well over twice as much.

Practicallyall foods can make you put on weight, it's the excess of calories in the body that triggers obesity. This excess does not only come from sugar, but from any food, even from eating a salad.

Are carbohydrates effective before training?

Thanks to a study carried out on runners, we now know thatcarbohydrates improve performance in endurance sports. The study, which established variations in the tolerance threshold of three groups of runners (one of whom was given glucose, another fructose, and another a placebo) showed thatfructose, and especially glucose, increase the tolerance threshold.

Can this property of carbohydrates provide a significant advantage in bodybuilding? In reality, no. Because if theyimprove endurance, however, they are useless for short-duration, intense efforts. For weight training, vur blood glucose is more than enough to provide you with the energy you need, even if your glycogen reserves are not very high.

The only time pre-workout carbohydrate intake is useful is during a cardio session prior to weight training. Opinions differ, however, with some believing that taking carbohydrates before training would improve performance even for those starting directly with bodybuilding.

If it hasn't been more than 10 hours since your last meal, you canreboosterBy taking a drink containing 30 to 60 grams of glucose or glucose polymer one hour before your workout. However, it's important to remember thatAvoid fructose, which can hamper your training by causing digestive discomfort.

Carbohydrate consumption after weight training?

Specialists agree in recommendingcarbohydrate consumption for sport. Carbohydrates with a high glycemic index as a post-workout snack.

They enable your body to activate the production of insulin, an anabolic hormone highly effective against catabolism following intense training, and forpromote muscle protein supply.


In general, a bodybuilder's diet should consist of approximately 50% carbohydrates, 30% protein and 20% fat. But not everyone has the same metabolism, and everyone should monitor their diet closely to adapt it to their particular needs. ForCarbohydrates for energy during training, for a bodybuilder, sugar consumption should be varied, without worrying about the glycemic index.

For proteins, we prefer those derived fromprotein barsOr lean meats such as chicken or fish.

As far as fats are concerned, some such as industrial fats (fatty acids) should be avoided as much as possible.Prefer mono-saturated fatsPresent in vegetable oils, and fatty acids rich inomega 3Found in fish such as salmon, sardines and herring.


BEFORE :If you combine aerobics and weight training, consume approximately one hour before your workout50g carbohydrates, equivalent to around 200 calories. Choose foods with a low glycemic index, such aspeas, beans, lentils or yoghurt.

You can also choose a food with a high glycemic index, as long as it's in small quantities: a bread roll, a little rice or some gelatinous sweets, which are based on glucose polymer. If you opt for this option, take them about a quarter of an hour before exercise.

DURING :isotonic drinks are more than sufficient. If you do cardio, take about 30 to 60 g of carbohydrate every hour.

AFTER :30 minutes after your session, it is important to consume sufficient carbohydrates togain muscle. Fast carbohydrates (rice, wheat, corn)will do the trick.

The role of cellulose.

Cellulose, a dietary fiber found only in plant cell membranes and composed of glucose molecules,is not digestible.On the other hand, it forms a residue that facilitates intestinal evacuation,prevents constipation.

Pectin, another dietary fiber found in apples,increases stool volumeBecause it absorbs water. It is also used to make jelly and jam.Dietary fiber of any kind is absolutely calorie-free. Some, like pectin from apples and oats, even help to remove cholesterol by preventing it from being reabsorbed by the body.

While consuming too little fiber does not lead to illness, it is particularlyuseful for constipated and overweight people. For the latter,high fiber consumption allows you to fill your stomach without adding calories.

For people suffering from constipation, fiber, because it absorbs water,increase stool bulk and speed up evacuation.

Last but not least, fibre delays the absorption of carbohydrates, whichallows diabetics to take less insulin.A high-fiber diet can prevent colon cancer, hemorrhoids and diverticula (linked to constipation). On the other hand, a diet too rich in fiber can cause gas and diarrhea, as well as deficiencies incalcium, magnesium, iron, zinc and vitamin B12.

Is sugar bad after all?

You have to watch your sugar intake.In too large quantities, it :

  1. -Leads to obesity
  2. -Can be addictive
  3. -Causes hypoglycemia
  4. -Fatigues the pancreas, leading to fatty diabetes
  5. -Reduces immune system effectiveness by blocking the release of growth hormones
  6. -Highly likely to be linked to vascular disease
  7. -Raises diuretic acid levels in the blood
  8. -Promotes tooth decay and deterioration.

Sucrose, which is a combination of 50% glucose and 50% fructose, is one of the world's leadingrefined sugar. However, this process also eliminates, along with the contaminants it targets

AuthorAlexandre CARPENTIER

Bodybuilding Champion N.A.C 2012

Alexandre shares his bodybuilding experience with MegaGear blog readers

Posted in: Sports nutrition