By Andrew McInroy, B. Sc. Nutrition ProSource
Want to gain muscle and lose fat at the same time? Want to have a ripped physique but also have super-freak strength? Having a great training program like the Ripped Strong Program and doing some cardio will get you far, but to get massive muscles and be lean, it's all about manipulating your macronutrients - and one in particular!
Protein and dietary fats are easy to manipulate because you just have to eat the right amounts for your goals and have high quality sources during your meals. Carbohydrates, on the other hand, are macronutrients that need strategic manipulation, Do it correctly, and you can enhance your physique and performance greatly. Manipulating your carbohydrates is all about having the right types of carbs, eating them at the right times during the day, eating the right amounts, changing how many carbs you have on different days of the week based on your training (carb cycling), and strategizing pre-workout and post-workout carbohydrates. If you want success and the best results possible, you must learn to "Dominate With Carbohydrate."
If you want to get a lean physique and also get the most muscle gains possible, it's all about timing your carbohydrates correctly. If you are trying to get cut, you obviously are going to be decreasing carbohydrates. If you want to gain muscle, you have to increase carbohydrates. The best times to consume your carbohydrates are at breakfast, pre-workout, and post-workout. You don't really want to go above 80 g of carbohydrates in one meal so although this might sound vague, try to spread out your carbohydrates throughout the day (with the exception of having them before bed) but trying to have the majority of them at breakfast, pre-workout and post-workout. So for instance let's say your day looked like this:
Meal 1 / breakfast = 60 g of carbs
Meal 2 = 30 g of carbs
Meal 3 / Pre-workout = 60 g of carbs
Meal 4 / Post-Workout = 80 g of carbs
Meal 5 / Pre-bed = less than 10 g of carbs
Here is why you want to concentrate your carbs at these times:
Breakfast: You haven't eaten for the last 6 - 8 hours due to sleep and your body wakes up and it is craving nutrients. This results in your muscles having greater uptake of nutrients so take advantage of this time and feed it some high quality carbohydrates. Choose complex carbs at this time.
Pre-Workout: This is a time that you want to consume carbohydrates that are going to help to top off your carbohydrate stores and also carbohydrates that will help to give you a consistent and steady release of energy to help you power through your workout. Pre-workout carbs are essential to getting an awesome pump and also for promoting cell volumization as discussed in a previous article: Turn Up the Volume.
Pre-workout carbs should be mostly complex but in order to achieve that rush of energy from them, they have to be a bit faster digesting. That is why white potatoes or sweet potatoes would be an excellent pre-workout choice. Consume your carbohydrates 60 - 120 minutes before your workout to ensure complete digestion of your foods. You can also try having a mixture of more complex carbs and a simple carb pre-workout such as Ezekiel bread toasted with all natural peanut butter along with a piece of fruit such as a banana (the potassium will also help your training).
Post-Workout: Here's where it gets interesting. During your workout, your muscles are plundering stored glycogen for energy, resulting in glycogen decreases of up to 60% in muscle tissue. Once your workout is concluded, your muscles will open up and nutrient uptake is greatly enhanced. This is due to activation of the special protein GLUT4. The post-workout time is a crucial "window of opportunity" in which you must take in the right nutrients in correct ratio to spur recovery and growth. Carb ingestion following resistance exercise stimulates muscle glycogen resynthesis. This in turn will decrease post-exercise recovery time and enhance muscle hypertrophy. It can also increase anabolic hormone levels (insulin, IGF-1, growth hormone) while reducing cortisol, thus creating the ideal environment for significant size and strength gains.
You could adopt a hit-and-miss approach to approximating the correct ratio of carbs to protein and other growth co-factors, but fortunately you don't have to. An advanced post-workout formula like MyoZene from BioQuest will maximize post-exercise muscle protein anabolism and muscle glycogen re-synthesis with its precision-targeted combination of a premium protein matrix, creatine, extra L-leucine, and just the right amount of high-glycemic carbohydrate to up-regulate insulin and get the ball rolling.
Eating the Right Amounts of Carbohydrates
As we've seen, consuming too little carbs will result in decreases in performance, strength and muscle size / fullness. With that being said, determining your carbohydrates is a mathematical process and you also need to evaluate your performance and results. First of all, you know you want 1 - 1.5 g of protein per lb of body weight. Next you know you want to get around 20% of your calories from dietary fats. And then you know you want to have an intake of calories that will promote muscle growth or fat loss, depending on your goal. Once you consider all of these things, the remainder of your calories will be from carbohydrates! Here is an example:
180 lb athlete
Need approximately 2500 calories to grow.
Protein = 180 x 1.5 = 270 g of protein = 1080 cals from protein
Fats = 2500 x 0.2 = 500 cals from fat
Carb cals = Total cals - Protein cals - fat cals = 2500 - 1080 - 500 = 920 cals / 4 = 230 g of carbs
Now this is just an example and an extremely rough example. But hey! This mathematical method may work for you; or you may need more carbs. You may need less. Let's give you some tips on how to decide on how much you need and don't let the following intimidate you - it is actually really logical and easy!
Introduction to Carb Cycling
If you want to know how to gain muscle and lose fat at the same time, it is all about manipulating your carbs based on what day it is. Let's talk a bit about energy systems.
Carbohydrate Burning Energy Systems: When you lift weights, sprint, jog, play sports, etc., you are going to be burning up a lot of carbs.
Fat Burning Energy Systems: When you do walking, sitting around the house, thinking, desk work, etc., you are going to be burning up mostly fatty acids for energy.
So this raises the question: Why would you consume carbohydrates on days where you don't need them? And shouldn't you consume more carbs on days where you really need them? This leads us to carb cycling! The method of how to get ripped and huge at the same time!
There are generally 3 different days that you will have in carb cycling: High, Medium, Low.
High Carbohydrate Day: This is a special day. You don't want to take these extra carbs for granted. They have a purpose and that is to give you tons of fuel for the most intense workouts and also to refuel your carbohydrate stores from the intense workouts. Good examples of days that you want to use as your high carb days are Leg (Squats) days, Deadlift days, and potentially chest days if you are a big bencher. As stated before, this is a good day for a precision carb/protein ratio as found in a post-workout formula like MyoZene.
Medium Carb Day: This is a day where you want to maintain your carbohydrate stores to perform in the gym and get good pumps, but you also want to avoid over carbing to avoid fat gains. Medium carb days are best for upper body exercise such as lats, arms, shoulders, and potentially chest.
Low Carb Day: On this day you want to keep your carbs to a minimum and take it as an off day from your training. This means avoid doing carb burning exercises. However, this is an excellent opportunity to burn some extra fat so consider going for a 30 - 60 minute walk because your metabolism will be tapping into fat stores for energy so use a fat burning exercise to get lean!
Just to give you an idea of what the amounts of these carbs might look like, refer back to the 180 lb athlete who had 2500 cals and 230 g of carbs. 230 g of carbs might be the amount he consumes on a medium carb day. However on high carb day he might consume 300 - 350 g of carbs. On low carb day, you might consume as low as 50 g of carbs. Tricking the body like this also causes your body to tap into fat stores! The result is bigger muscles and better cuts!
While we're on the subject of low-carb days, it should be noted that the easiest way to keep your carb intake low is to upgrade your protein intake. Of course, you'll already be maximizing your intake of meats and fish at meal-times, so it's key to focus on those between-major-meal times when the temptation to snack on processed-sugar junk foods is at its highest. To combat the junk-carb urge, try to keep one or more servings of protein formula on hand that you can mix into a shake at your convenience. Quality is essential here, so make sure that you're taking a protein supplement that emphasizes high-quality amino content and advanced processing that preserves its biological value.
The key to getting a ripped physique and high performance is all about proper nutrition. Getting enough protein, carbs, and fats is essential but it is focusing on the carbs that will make the most difference. I highly suggest that you look over this article a few times, write out a few different plans, try out the different carbohydrates, different timings, etc. and really figure out what works for you. I guarantee if you find your sweet spots for all of these factors that your training will be taken to a new level and your body will be sure to turn some heads. Thanks for your time and never give up on your goals!