play an essential role in our diet and knowing the science behind them and when to implement them into our daily eating patterns is essential if we hope to maximize our gains well still living a healthy and balanced lifestyle. Over the course of this blog we will take a deep dive into carbohydrates and look at them from every angle. Put your seat belt on and strap in for this one.
Hormones involved in Carbohydrate consumption
When you consume carbohydrates your digestive system converts them into glucose; glucose is used to fuel your cells, muscles and organs. Insulin and Glucagon are the two hormones that play a pivotal role in how much glucose there is in our blood and the fate of that glucose. Think of them as yin and yang hormones whatever insulin does glucagon does the opposite and vice versa. Both of these hormones are produced by our pancreas; as levels of glucose rise within the body insulin is secreted by the beta cells of the pancreas to move the glucose from our blood stream into our cells ( when insulin is unable to do this we get diagnosed with diabetes) Glucagon is produced by the alpha cells of the pancreas and does the opposite of of insulin. Glucagon stimulates the release of stored glycogen from the liver and muscle cells which in turn increases blood sugar. Carbohydrates play a pivotal role in how often insulin is stimulated and in turn how often our blood sugar spikes.
When do you want Insulin to be released?
If you want to make the most of your gains you need to ensure you are stimulating the release of insulin at the right times, as we discussed above insulin is secreted in response to rising blood glucose levels and blood glucose levels are directly related to the food you eat. Every food has been ranked on something known as the GI index, the GI Index tells you the effect a given food will have on your blood glucose levels aka how quickly that food will be absorbed in the small intestine and the subsequent rise this will have on blood glucose levels. Foods such as white rice, white bread, pasta, bananas and pineapple all rank extremely high on the GI index and will cause a large spike in blood glucose which also leads to an increase in insulin. This is beneficial post workout, but should be avoided at all costs pre workout; here is why; Insulin is a storage hormone aka it brings glucose from the blood into the liver and muscle cells, after a workout when we have depleted muscle glycogen eating foods with a high GI rating is the way to go because this will allow for muscle and liver glycogen to be resynthesized which in turn will allow us to perform at a high level in the gym for the next days workout. On the contrary eating foods that have a high GI rating pre workout is not a good idea; insulin being released pre workout can lead to a dramatic decrease in blood glucose 30 minutes into a workout leaving you in a hypoglycemic state; this will leave you feeling tired, foggy and unable to workout with intensity and focus. Moral of the story save foods high in simple carbohydrates for post workout, before a workout these can take away from your performance.
Carbohydrates that are a great option Post workout and Pre Workout
Foods with a low GI rating = great pre workout option.
- natural yogurt
Foods with a high GI rating - great post workout
- white rice