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Carbohydrates Facts


All carbs make you fat!" That�s the slander. I�m sure you�ve also heard "There�s no such thing as an essential carbohydrate." More half-truths and according to many � myself included � such statements are akin to dietary treason. Make no mistake, the anti-carb crusade remains in full swing and I�m here to re-assure you that carbohydrates are indeed essential in both building mass and losing body fat. Let�s take a closer look at the evidence and clarify what you really need to know about carbohydrates.

Just The Facts
Carbohydrates run the gambit from something as innocent as a yam or baked beans all the way down to bread and cotton candy. Within that range you�ll also find fruits, vegetables and whole grains. With the exception of vegetables, all carbohydrates to some degree are the same in that they�re related. The common thread that justifies the relationship? Sugar. All carbohydrates break down into sugar, often referred to as glucose.

Glucose goes part and parcel with gaining mass. First, it is the main source of fuel. Skimp here and you just can�t train hard enough to stimulate growth. Second, glucose initiates the release of an anabolic hormone called insulin. Insulin helps drive glucose and amino acids � the building blocks of protein � into muscles. The net effect; you increase lean body mass.

Of course, going overboard with carbohydrates can cause an increase in body fat. That�s where most of the bad rap comes from. However, most of the carbohydrates you eat are first stored as muscle glycogen. Only as glycogen reserves begin to fill up will some of the carbohydrates be stored as body fat. If you are training hard and frequent the gym at least 4 days a week, chances are you�ll need quite a bit of carbs to build mass. I recommend starting at 2 grams per pound of bodyweight. So the 200 pounder hoping to build mass will need at least 400 grams of carbohydrates each day.

Dieters often find reducing carbohydrates is a good idea for the following two reasons. First, reducing carbohydrates is a viable way to reduce calories and calorie control is a requisite for reducing body fat. When calories are reduced, the body taps stored body fat as fuel. The other reason reducing carbs works also has to do with insulin. When carbs go down, insulin release also goes down and a lower insulin environment helps control the appetite and favors fat loss.

While insulin is anabolic � it drives glucose and amino acids into muscles - it also tends to seal off fat cells preventing a drop in body fat. So, when you reduce carbs, not only do you create a calorie deficit but you remove insulin surges which can helps unseal fat cells allowing them to be burned off as fuel. That�s where the no-carb craze enters the picture. However, dumping all carbs is more than misleading.

The no-carb crew believes that fat can only be burned when carbs are kept close to zero or under 50 grams a day � about that found in a small apple and a single thin slice of bread. That�s not true. As long as you eat fewer carbs along with fewer calories than you typically eat on a daily basis, you will start to burn some body fat. Plus extreme low carb dieting poses a few problems. Near carb-free diets completely zap your energy levels which downgrades the metabolic rate. In a rush to lose fat fast, the individual who slashes carbs across the board will often create a downdraft in the metabolic rate � the total calories burned each day. So while he begins to eat radically less calories and carbs, the body often compensates by downgrading its metabolism.

The other negative; those who train with weights using a very low carb diet often lose muscle because you need an adequate carbohydrate intake to preserve and hold muscle mass. When carbs are cut too low, you burn a lot of muscle while you train. When you burn muscle, you initiate a drop in metabolism because the total amount of muscle one carries it directly linked to burning calories. When you have a lot of muscle, you burn a lot of calories and when you add muscle you upgrade your metabolism. On the other hand, when you burn muscle, you downgrade your metabolism. I call it dumb dieting. Most dieters who train with weights can see great results by modifying their carb intake from 2 or more grams recommended in the mass gaining phase to 1 to 1.5 grams per pound of bodyweight in order to cut up. That would mean a 200 pound bodybuilder or athlete eating 400 or more grams daily to build mass would drop down to 200 to 300 grams to cut up � without resorting to extreme low carbs which has the potential to cause a quick drop in muscle mass and metabolism.

Fast vs Slow
One distinction among carbohydrates is the speed at which they hit the blood stream as glucose. What�s a difference between 40 grams of carbohydrates from a bagel and 40 grams from a yam? The calorie and carbohydrate content are the same but the speed at which the food finally enters the blood as glucose is quite different. The bagel � all 40 carbs � will hit the blood faster than the yam. This result influences how much insulin the body will release. When carbs hit the blood fast, more insulin is secreted than when they hit the blood at a slower rate. So we have to determine is there a benefit or detriment to the speed at which carbs hit the bloodstream? The answer is yes to both.

The benefit:
Mass building requires you eat a lot of food including a lot of carbohydrates. For many, the appetite just does not justify eating all that food. It becomes rather difficult to eat 5 to 6 large meals a day. That�s where fast digesting carbs come into play. Fast digesting carbs release a lot of insulin and insulin is an appetite stimulant. If you�re trying to build mass and find it difficult to eat, then try eating mostly fast digesting carbs.

Fast digesting carbs also are strongly anabolic in the meal following training. When you train hard you deplete your carbohydrate reserves and stress hormones are released that trigger the breakdown of muscle tissue. Eating fast digesting carbs immediately following a workout (combined with a fast digesting protein like whey, egg whites or fish) jacks up insulin levels and this not only kick starts the rebuilding of glycogen stores, but also reverese and suppresses the stress hormones that come with hard training.

Fat burning requires appetite control. When you gain control over your desire to eat, staying on a diet becomes a lot easier! That�s where slower digesting carbs come into play. Slower digesting carbs create a smaller insulin burst and lower insulin levels tend to help dieters feel less hungry.
Slower digesting carbs also create an environment more conducive to burning fat. That�s because slower burning carbs create smaller bursts of insulin and smaller outputs tend to create a hormonal environment that allows fat to be burned. Of Course calories count. You can�t eat all slow burning carbs � but more calories than you need each day � and expect to cut up. However, slow burners help � when calories are controlled. So if you think you�re going to eat 600 grams of carbs a day � all from really slow burning sources such as oats � and still get ripped, your either wrong or just delirious!

Dieters trying to cut up should stick mostly with slow burning carbs with the exception of the post training meal. That�s when fast digesting carbs are needed to off set potential muscle loss associated with hard training. So if you want to splurge on something with a lot of sugar, do so � as long as you stay within a reasonable carbohydrate intake for the day. Middle of the road burning carbs (see below) can also be used by dieters as well. These should be combined with vegetables because veggies help slow the digestion of carbohydrates. In other words, combining low calories vegetables along with pasta can transform the pasta into a slower burning carbohydrate.

FAST DIGESTING CARBS
� Rice cakes
� Fruit juice
� Ripe bananas
� Instant white rice
� Fat free muffins
� Fat free cookies
� Fat free pop tarts
� White bread
� Cream of rice cereal
� Cold Cereals (except fiber based cereals)
� Pancakes
� Mashed potatoes
� Shredded Wheat

SLOW DIGESTING CARBS
� Yams
� Red potatoes
� Brown rice
� Basmati rice
� Whole wheat pasta
� Buckwheat pancakes
� Cream of Rye cereal
� Whole grain bread
� Rye bread
� Apples
� Cherries
� Oranges and orange juice (with pulp)
� Oatmeal
� Fiber Cereals (Fiber One bran Flakes)
� Black beans, kidney beans and red beans

MIDDLE OF THE ROAD (Burn neither really slow nor really fast)
� Potatoes
� White rice (slower cooking)
� Pasta � most kinds. Angel hair tends to border on fast
� Wheat Bread
� Oatmeal Bread
� Low Carb Solution

Many readers might be aware that I have a book out called the Low Carb Rule & Recipe Book. From reading the above advice, you know I�m no big fan of low carb diets because athletes need them to grow and they need them when dieting to prevent a drop in the metabolic rate. Plus, carbs while dieting help you keep you hard earned muscle mass! That said, low carb diets have there place- with very overweight and completely inactive individuals. Several studies are confirming that the clinically obese group loses more weight using low carb diets than other diet approaches. For the most part, the success rate is being attributed to the fact that many obese people benefit greatly from the appetite reducing effects of severely restricting carbs, which leads to a drop off in total food consumption. For the record: I do suggest low carb diets � but only for the obese and the obese who are so large, they find exercising to be nearly impossible due to their size.

By Chris Aceto



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