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Carbohydrates and Bodybuilding

Average: 3.2 (73 votes)
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Why do you need carbohydrates? This article explains how you can integrate carbohydrates into your diet to help build more muscle faster.

If you ask any bodybuilder to tell you about protein’s role in muscle building you’ll get an in-depth response about the way muscle builds, hypotrophy, anabolic rates and more! But what about if you asked the same bodybuilder about the role of carbohydrates and building muscle? I doubt you’d get a very lengthy response.

Carbohydrates are often overlooked when planning a muscle building diet. This is because a lot of people are not aware of the importance of carbohydrates and the role they play in muscle development. The truth is what type of carbohydrates you eat, when you eat them and how much you eat can have a great effect on the muscle building process.

If you want to optimize your diet for muscle gain and fat loss it’s important to know how to integrate carbohydrates into your diet. There’s nothing complex about it, you just have to follow a few simple rules.

TO MINIMIZE FAT STORAGE FOLLOW THESE RULES

  1. Eat complex carbohydrates
    Complex carbohydrates are found in whole foods like brown rice, potatoes, whole grain cereal and oatmeal. Complex carbohydrates should make up the bulk of your daily calorie intake because they form muscle glycogen, the long lasting fuel that your body needs to train hard. Complex carbohydrates are slow burning which means you get longer lasting energy. They also help keep your blood sugar levels constant, this reduces fat storage and fatigue and promotes the release of insulin. Insulin is the body’s natural anabolic hormone and is essential for muscle development.
  2. Eat carbohydrates directly after training
    When you train hard you reduce your blood sugar level considerably. Eating carbohydrates straight after a training session provides your body with an insulin spike. This insulin spike puts your body into an anabolic (muscle building) state. If you do not get the right nutrients after training it’s possible that your body could enter a catabolic (muscle breakdown) state. This is why post workout nutrition is so important.
  3. Eat small amounts of carbohydrates more often
    Eating smaller servings of carbohydrates more often helps keep a steady flow of insulin into the body. If you eat large amounts of carbohydrates in one sitting your body is much more likely to store them as fat. Eating to much is one sitting is unnecessary; your body doesn’t need that much nutrients at one time.
  4. Eat high fiber carbohydrates
    This goes hand-in-hand with point number 1 because most sources of complex carbohydrates are rich sources of fiber. Fiber helps to build muscle by making muscle tissue absorb amino acids faster and more efficiently.
  5. Avoid fruits
    This may sound insane because we all know that fruit is high in vitamins, low in calories and very good for general health and wellbeing. But, fruit contains fructose which is a very simple sugar. The body converts fructose into glycogen which is used as a building block for fat tissue.
  6. Have carbohydrates and protein in the same meal
    When you mix protein and carbohydrates together in the same meal you minimize the chance of the carbohydrates being stored as fat. Protein is harder for the body to process, so it increases your metabolism. Also, carbohydrates help transport the nutrients from protein to the muscle cells which aids in muscle growth.

Follow these rules, and you can use carbohydrates to your advantage to build more muscle faster. If you find you’re gaining too much fat then you should cut out carbs after 7pm. Unless you have a fast metabolism, eating carbs late at night is generally not a good idea. Your body does not need the energy while you’re sleeping so it’s likely to store the carbs as fat.

Another point worth mentioning here is meal sizes. Like I stated in point 3, you should eat small meals more often. Have you ever felt really tired after eating? Then you’ve eaten too much. Your body has to use a lot of energy to process the food which leaves you feeling tired and energy-less. This style of eating will also decrease your metabolic rate. To keep your metabolism high you need to constantly stimulate it with small meals every 3 hours or so.

So the main points you need to remember here are; eat good complex carbohydrates, eat small amounts more often, always have a good serving of complex carbohydrates about 1 hour before your workout (for energy) and straight after your meal (for insulin spike) and if you are gaining excess fat stop eating carbohydrates after 7pm.

Questions?

If you’ve got any more questions about carbohydrates, diets or muscle building I’m available to answer your questions on our muscle building forum. It’s free to register and there's plenty of experienced members to answer your questions!

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Comments (55)

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David K White
Posted Thu, 08/05/2010 - 17:48

You have an apparent conflict of ideas in your writing. In the first paragraph you state "Complex carbohydrates should make up the bulk of your daily calorie intake because they form muscle glycogen, the long lasting fuel that your body needs to train hard." In the section on fruit you state "But, fruit contains fructose which is a very simple sugar. The body converts fructose into glycogen which is used as a building block for fat tissue."

I am aware that glycogen can be processed as a fuel source AND a fat source under different conditions. Perhaps it would be a good idea to clarify what you mean and not use the formation of glycogen as the sole reason to avoid fruit.

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Paul Stebbs
Posted Mon, 08/27/2012 - 17:48

The formation of glycogen is the sole reason to avoid fruit.

He states "Complex carbohydrates are the long lasting fuel"
He also states "fruit contains fructose which is a very simple sugar".

Complex carbs take longer to digest into sugar and don't over spike the blood sugar levels.
Simple carbs (like those in fruit) digest very rapidly and spike the blood sugar almost instantaneously.

Because simple carbs are digested so rapidly, all the sugar is absorbed into your bloodstream over a very short period of time. If the sugar in the bloodstream is not used it will be stored as fat; whereas complex carbs puts small amounts of sugar in the bloodstream over a longer period of time because they take longer to digest, allowing your body to utilize the sugar more efficiently rather than storing excess carbs as fat.

Some Useful Numbers: for every 1gram of complex carbs you consume, it takes the body 3% of the energy from those carbs to digest those carbs.
- in other words: 3% of the energy produced from 1gram of complex carbs is used to digest that 1 gram of complex carbs.

For protein: It takes 30% of the energy produced from the ingested protein to drive the digestion of that protein.

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Jason bird
Posted Thu, 08/19/2010 - 14:59

Hi the information in the article is very helpful the only question I have is how many carbs mixed with protein should I have in one meal at one time?
Thanks

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Steve's picture
Steve
Posted Fri, 08/20/2010 - 10:37
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Aaron Pace
Posted Mon, 09/20/2010 - 22:57

Greatest article i've read. I have a feeling this is going to help me out a great deal. Thanks Alot

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mighty me
Posted Tue, 10/12/2010 - 14:26

The fructose is either changed into glycogen or stored as fat, not both.

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RJ Shrimpton
Posted Tue, 11/16/2010 - 16:16

I am very confused. Are fruits good or bad??!?!?!?! i've always been told they were essential for body building.

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gary
Posted Sat, 12/25/2010 - 09:49

I would have to disagree that fruits are bad for bulking, there is just certian times where they can be used to your advantage. Fruit when you first wake up is good cause your body need a jump start, it will use that faster sugar to get your body going, not store as fat. Also you said you want to take in complex carbs before and after your workout, but post workout is the only time its neccesary to take in simple carbs to get that protien into your muscles in 30 min or less, whey protien with a banana, fig newtons, gatorade, fruit smoothie are all good options. Do not eat complex carbs with protien for your immediate post workout meal, you will miss your growth window. Two hours after your post workout meal, eat a whole foods meal and go back to your complex carbs for this. All meals besides morning and post workout should focus on veggies for vitamins and minerals, not the fruit. Good article though . GL

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Greg
Posted Tue, 12/06/2011 - 18:28

That seemed more helpful/logical than the article, and it didn't have English issues. Thanks.

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saeed182
Posted Tue, 10/02/2012 - 11:08

I agree with gray ....

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Ciaranmulroy
Posted Mon, 01/10/2011 - 15:38

Im an adolescent any tips for bodybuilding?? Im generally very tall and think I could get a fantastic build if i weightrained

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Steve's picture
Steve
Posted Tue, 01/11/2011 - 11:29

You want to focus on two things to maximize results:

1) Pushing yourself in the gym. Using good form, always push yourself on every set. When you can perform the recommended number of reps for a set, add weight.

2) Eating to maximize muscle. Here are two articles that can help:

https://www.muscleandstrength.com/articles/your-go-to-guide-to-gaining-m...

https://www.muscleandstrength.com/articles/how-to-create-a-bodybuilding-...

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Tricia
Posted Fri, 03/15/2013 - 21:33

Don't push it too hard or you risk damaging the epiphyseal plates in the bones as you are still growing. If you are pushing to the point that you are very shakey and cannot do 8-10 reps in a set then it is too much weight. My 14 yr old son, who was very well conditioned and with good muscle bulk broke a 2.5x3cm fragment off the femur when psoas contracted while he was playing flag football and going for a touchdown. He was at the perfect point in a growth phase, and pushed it to the limit and it just happened (common with hurdlers). Stuff like this happens. If you damage the plate you risk that that bone will not grow beyond that part (you could end up with one leg longer than the other). I co-own a physio clinic and a gym, and we do allow teens in with restrictions for this. Essentially, you can lift so you feel that you are working but not to where you are shaking when you are lifting. If your parent's have coverage for physiotherapy, you can get them to book you an appointment and then the PT can set you up a program that is safe for you but incorporates your goals.

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rod
Posted Tue, 02/08/2011 - 01:36

Most fruits are low GI and very good source of fibre. I disagree with the fruit comment because they are an excellent source of nutrition for all forms of sport including weight lifting. Plus, the body can't digest all the fructose from the fruit, hence they seem low in calories and why if u eat to much fruit then you will know because you will feel very sick and be on the toilet constantly.

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Clif
Posted Fri, 06/03/2011 - 11:49

I agree. To be honest, when I read the part about fruit consumption, I was stunned. I think that advice like that is irresponsible. Fruit is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. Isn't that what we want?
I think that the purpose of fitness/bodybuilding/strength training should first of all be, to stay healthy, AND second, to build a strong, muscular body, not the other way around.

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Demitri
Posted Wed, 04/06/2011 - 18:18

It doesnt make any sense about the fruit. Everything is broken down in to sugar for energy that your body consumes. No matter what kind of carb it is. Simple or Complex. Fruit is good to eat about 45 minutes before a work out along with a protein shake. Its easier to digest then a complex carb and its giving you a lot of energy to lift.

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JGilbert
Posted Thu, 07/28/2011 - 06:33

Fruit is bad guys when doing serious weight training . When you get older and have trained for 30 years you will agree but while your young knock yourself out . To much fruit is full of sugar and makes it harder on your body to digest all the proteins and fats . Gas is what builds up and I would advise all serious weight lifters to only eat berries in the morning on an empty stomach . Large portions of fruit will hold your digestion back as will large portions of any simple sugars and most fruit is not low GI . Some are but the bulk of fruits and fruit juices are a no no...

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JBluetre
Posted Thu, 08/04/2011 - 11:47

I thought this was a fairly well written article until I read the part about eating fruits. Seriously? Avoid fruits? I admit. I had a good laugh out of that one

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Ed
Posted Thu, 08/18/2011 - 17:16

Want to clarify something you said ...

"So the main points you need to remember here are; eat good complex carbohydrates, eat small amounts more often, always have a good serving of complex carbohydrates about 1 hour before your workout (for energy) and straight after your meal (for insulin spike) ..."

That last part, did you mean to say "and straight after your 'workout'", not straight after your meal?

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Steve's picture
Steve
Posted Mon, 08/22/2011 - 17:01

Correct, straight after your workout.

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Ira
Posted Thu, 10/06/2011 - 18:50

I'm 17 I've been working out sense I was in 7th grade, I am only 135 pounds but it is all muscle, much like the smallest mma fighters, lately I've been trying to gain about 20 pounds without gaining fat, any tips on what to eat to do that?

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Steve's picture
Steve
Posted Fri, 10/07/2011 - 14:34

You want to focus on two things to maximize results:

1) Pushing yourself in the gym. Using good form, always push yourself on every set. When you can perform the recommended number of reps for a set, add weight.

2) Eat to maximize muscle gains. Here are some articles that can help:

https://www.muscleandstrength.com/articles/how-to-create-a-bodybuilding-...

http://www.muscleandstrength.com/articles/building-muscle-eating-like-a-...

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health fitness ...
Posted Sat, 10/08/2011 - 19:10

This was a great article I enjoyed the read but nO Fruit? oh crap! So much for my blueberry & greek yogurt smoothies in the mornings! WHy can't I have a fruit with something like 20 carbs and eat it with a protein with say... 40 carbs? Or drink a whey protein shake & a banana, or eat some grapes with nuts. Couldn't I do that? Have simple carbs with proteins. That way I can still enjoy the fruit and keep my blood sugar levels stable.

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Paul Stebbs
Posted Mon, 08/27/2012 - 18:19

Think about it this way:
your body digests the sugar in fruit really fast. Once digested, now it's in your blood stream. Your blood now has tons of sugar to use for energy, however, the protein you say you eat takes time to digest. The digestion of protein will use the new acquired energy in your blood but not instantly. If all the sugar in your blood is not being used the body decides to store it for later use aka fat. Look up the relationship of hyperglycemia and Insulin and how spiking blood sugar can lead to fat storage.

For overall health, yes fruit is good for you but only when taken at the appropriate times where your body needs all that energy (ex: Morning, just after strenuous exercise).

If you need more info as to why fruits preferably avoided, look up these words and understand them: Blood Sugar, Hyperglycemia, and Insulin.

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Sam
Posted Tue, 10/25/2011 - 12:39

Just for feed back please,I'm 24,play high standard soccer 10years +, metabolism crazy fast, weigh 75kg height 5ft 9,body fat 8% there abouts,
Breakfast oats + protein shake and cinnamon
2nd breakfast egg dish + Turkey Rashers
Lunch protein meal 2/3 chicken fillets
Mid day snack - mixed nuts
Dinner - protein ie steak,fillets etc, lot of green veggies
Late evening - omelet + sliced ham
Post work shake is 'reflex instant mass'
My aim is to put on size but find it difficult
Don't count Grams, portions are slighty above d average,
My training is very intense, chest back day, shoulders legs day, abs arms day, 6reps 6set heavy lifting,

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Steve
Posted Wed, 10/26/2011 - 10:47

Your snack between lunch and dinner should contain at least 30 grams of protein. You also don't appear to be eating very many carbs at all, and probably not enough calories.

What time of day do you lift?

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doro dons
Posted Sun, 10/30/2011 - 00:35

hi all,
i hav been working out from last 5 months.
before starting it i was of 55 kg now i am of
62 kg.i used mass gainer earlier and countinuing with
whey protein.i of 5f 7".want to inrease my weigth
and strength.
pls help

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Steve's picture
Steve
Posted Mon, 10/31/2011 - 14:39

You want to focus on two things to maximize results:

1) Pushing yourself in the gym. Using good form, always push yourself on every set. When you can perform the recommended number of reps for a set, add weight.

2) Eat to maximize muscle gains. Here are some articles that can help:

https://www.muscleandstrength.com/articles/how-to-create-a-bodybuilding-...

http://www.muscleandstrength.com/articles/building-muscle-eating-like-a-...

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Adonis Brad
Posted Mon, 11/07/2011 - 03:51

Mixing carb and protein helps to minimize carbs being stored as fat??!!!!! WTH?
CArbs get digested in an alkaline state. Protein in an acidic state. So when you combine either the carb or the protein doesnt get digested well, ie fat accumulation.
The greatest trainer ever, the Iron Guru, Vince Gironda, was strongly opposed to mixing carbs and proteins.

Strongly disagree with this article.
Shakes head in disbelief....

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Ron
Posted Thu, 03/29/2012 - 17:53

Apparently you haven't read up on the Glycemic Index.

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ABHI
Posted Sat, 02/11/2012 - 15:12

Hi i am 21 year old N do gym regularly from 1 month.
my weight is 68 kg n height is 168cm. i wanna make good Physique.
i take super protein(61.1g per 100g)powder, A scoup with milk after workout.
i wanna make good muscle & nice abs.
please suggest me about diet & type of exercise to do.
i have little belly fat & also wanna tips to reduce it to gain V shape.

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rkd80
Posted Tue, 03/13/2012 - 15:41

This article is so devoid of science it is scary. The insulin and fruit commentary is just absurd. People will be wise to avoid these "tips" and search out real scientific explanations.

Insulin is the primary hormone responsible for adipose accumulation, excessive insulin levels can lead to weight loss, inflammation and more importantly the stunting of human growth hormone secretion. Avoiding fruit is nonsense period. Most fruit are loaded with fiber which results in most fruit having a much lower glycemic load than potatoes, rice and pasta. This means that fruit turning into fat is about as likely as the author having any scientific training.

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Joe
Posted Sat, 03/31/2012 - 23:48

Wow there is so much wrong with this article. Fruit and sugar turning into fat? Explain to me how if I am burning 2500 calories in a day, and eat 2500, yet I have sugar in there, that I will gain mass. You need a calorie surplus to gain mass, so I don't see how this is possible. Calories in vs. calories out. I eat ice cream every day and still stay lean, you mad?

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Carlos
Posted Sun, 04/08/2012 - 17:08

You do realize there are different body types and what may work for you may not for others. Some people are genetically predisposed to gain muscle mass with poor diets. I think this article is pretty accurate for the most part and should provide results for most people who will give his advice a try. Fructose is sugar, sugar is a simple carb, simple carbs that are not converted into energy are stored as fat.

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Murther
Posted Tue, 04/10/2012 - 15:17

So is glycogen good or bad? First the writer says it is needed to build muscle fiber, but then he contradicts himself and says it turns to fat. Which is it?

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John
Posted Wed, 04/11/2012 - 20:00

There are severe contradictions in this article which I can imagine to be very confusing to a newcomer in the world of nutrition. To discus the role of glycogen in the body alone would need it's own page at the very least. There is an element of truth to the whole fruit deal in that fructose is by far the worst form of sugar to put in your body and over time will strain your system regardless of weather there is a calorie surplus or not. The article says the body uses glycogen as a building block for fat? This is highly misleading as the Glycolysis energy system is constantly ongoing. Also the body is always given the option to use glycogen for energy to which it is converted to ATP, if it is not needed or used it is then (and only then) converted to fat. In terms of carbs with protein, yes everyone is different and people have there nutritional beliefs (which are often based on myth and Chinese whispers) but the body does use protein much more efficiently when taken with a SMALL amount of carbs as an insulin spike is produced. That is a nutritional fact, if there ever was one.
My advice to any one starting out in this field would be to keep it simple, get your research from credible science and nutritional books or websites (not blogs) and build your knowledge up slowly. You can then make your own informed decisions as you go along. Don't ask other gym members, P.TS or read blogs, Case and point above.

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arjun cr
Posted Thu, 04/12/2012 - 19:10

hi
im arjun
i just wanted to ask a question that ;
oatmeal contain lots of carbohydrates right ,,dose eating oats gain weight?? (im having 1/2 cup of oatmeal before bed) or it helps to loose weight (iam trying to loose weight without losing muscle) i dont know what to do!!! i need your suggestions...plese help!!

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Hollywood
Posted Wed, 04/18/2012 - 07:03

I play rugby for Hollywood. I am big and red. That is all. x

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KingofClubs
Posted Sat, 04/28/2012 - 19:37

You had me until the fruit comment.

Not all fruits are fructose based; the dreaded banana has a greater proportion of glucose to fructose and is an excellent post workout choice. The glycogen comment was hilarious. The reason fruits are a poor choice as your only carbohydrate source in the diet is because -fructose- cannot be stored in the muscle; only the liver. Fructose turns to fat only if your liver is full. and you don't consume fiber with it: fruit is full of fiber.

Glucose can fill the liver and then the muscle and not turn into fat until both are full.

Fruit also cleans your colon better than any fiber supplement you can think of. Eat three apples a day for a clean break every morning. If you're afraid of the tiny amount of fructose in apples you have a problem. Calories are king in terms of fat loss. I think the largest apple out there has about 100 calories?

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Pablo
Posted Tue, 06/05/2012 - 06:15

What an absolute load of rubbish! This article has obviously been written by someone with absolutely no knowledge on gaining muscle and maintaining a healthy body. Fruit is essential to everyone's diet and mixing proteins with carbs is the perfect way to get fat, not to put on good quality muscle mass: Proteins need an acidic environment in the stomach to be properly digested whereas carbs and starchy foods need an alkaline environment - Mix the two together and they neutralize each other causing the food to remain in the body partially undigested.

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Dimitri synchovic
Posted Sat, 09/01/2012 - 03:56

BroScience at its best,
Some idiot read a theory of fructose metabolic pathways back in 1985 and broscience'd up an article about how fruit was bad. This theory has perpetuated ever since and its plainly wrong. Every single study -> see pubmed -> regarding fruit, body fat, body composition (actually regarding any carb type simple or complex) shows that there is absolutely 0 difference between any of the carb types on overall body composition.

Unfortunately this broscience rumor will persist to the end of time....

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zach
Posted Thu, 09/06/2012 - 19:58

I just started working out how many grams of carbs should I be eating I way165 and 6 feet I don't wanna get fat but I wanna get ripped not bulky?

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Clint
Posted Wed, 09/12/2012 - 09:01

What? Fruit isn't high on the gi scale. Unless ur eating pineapple or tropical fruits in that nature. Ie. Apples is in the 40s on the gi scale, oatmeal (complex carb 55) research before u write and throw a bunch of people into frenzy. Fruit makes u fat! I have used fruit all the way up to the day of a show.

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Dominic
Posted Tue, 09/25/2012 - 10:20

In the first number you say that glucagon is muscle building and good to help get through workouts, but in the last number you say fructose is converted into glucagon and that that's bad. I'm just confused.

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adrian r
Posted Tue, 10/16/2012 - 19:24

found this article helpfull but wouldnt mind some good advice,

Im 5.11 and weigh 95kg i am trying to gain lean mass and burn some fat, i wouldnt regard myself as having much fat but would like to be more defined. i curently use a good protein which contains protein 30grams per serving and 20 grams carbs. should i do more cardio as i am off season and dont start for 2 months, or bulk and wait to start then?

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Issac
Posted Thu, 10/25/2012 - 10:10

If u workout /eat right 90% of the time. You'll be fine.. Trust me u won't get fat from eating to many apples or bananas... Just try to mix on all kinds of fruits and veggies and protein.. Just eat like a caveman with the acception of whole grains eat those too.. Just don't eat trans fats and don't over eat candy and chips they all have really low nurturent compared to the calories..

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Ganesh
Posted Wed, 12/26/2012 - 20:02

In the last columns , Instead of "straight after your **workout** (for insulin spike)", it was written as ,"straight after your **meal** (for insulin spike)"
Please correct this. Thankyou

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Omid
Posted Thu, 01/17/2013 - 14:11

Calories in vs calories and btw fruit is gods food

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Jeff
Posted Tue, 02/05/2013 - 09:53

What a load of nonsense. Suggest those of you who think that fruit spikes their blood sugar, eat a piece a mango, papaya, apple, etc and monitor your blood sugar. You will see that what this guy says is pure nonsense. But go right on eating your breads and pastas...and see how that works for ya!

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William
Posted Sun, 03/31/2013 - 10:09

I weigh about 225. I need to lose 16 pounds of fat and I want to replace it with muscle. When should I stop eating complex carbs in the day and will the fat shed as I continue to lift? I am lifting to build muscle and I am taking protien and creatine. I eat every 3 hours and I am wondering if I am missing anything. I see some gains but my weight is staying the same.

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