carbs after a workout when cutting

Importance Of Post-Workout Carbs While Cutting Phase

Last updated on October 23rd, 2020 at 08:56 pm


The importance of carbohydrates lies in its role in energy production and muscle recovery; whether you are planning to cut or bulk, planning your carbs right is going to play a crucial role in reaching your desired goals. 

When it comes to muscle building, most of the people are concerned about protein intake, and very few are talking about carbs while cutting phase. Even the internet is flooded with articles praising the role of protein for greater gains and not many are really talking about the role of carbs after a workout

Frankly speaking, no matter, whether you are planning for cutting or bulking there is no “one nutrition plan that fits all”, your nutrition plan will vary on your body type and goals. “Universal macro ratio” is a lie, and I am not going to confuse you by providing another macro ratio but I am going to talk about the fundamentals of post-workout carbs while cutting phase. 

Everybody has different macro requirements and you won’t be able to get the shredded look if you are eating way too many calories. Let’s start with the basics. 

What is a cutting diet?

Don’t confuse a weight loss diet (calorie-restricted) with the cutting diet, weight loss diet is usually prescribed to an obese person who requires to get down the overall body weight.

The primary goal of any cutting diet is to shred down fat% while preserving muscle mass. A cutting diet is typically followed by bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts who are looking to improve overall body composition for the upcoming event. The length of the cutting diet usually ranges from 8 weeks to 16 weeks. 

Unlike other weight-loss diets, a cutting diet is uniquely designed to fulfill the individual’s goals. A cutting diet is designed by studying deep into an individual’s body type, calorie requirements, metabolic rate, and goals. 

Importance of carbs:

I come across many beginners who try to cut down bodyweight by totally cutting down carbohydrate intake, this is a wrong approach that takes them nowhere. 

Carbs are as important as protein for muscle health (not talking about the ketogenic diet), feeding carbs at the right time can amplify your body’s anabolic response by refueling the glycogen and accelerating recovery process. 

I have been asked this multiple times, Coach, “do I really need to eat carbohydrates?” or “are carbs good for muscle recovery?”. 

Feeding your body to achieve a definite goal has always been the trickiest part. Newbie lifters are so obsessed about protein consumption that they forget to plan the right amount of carbohydrates in their meal. 

Whether your goal is to gain muscle mass or lose weight, carbs play a very important role in the process. 

How do carbs help the recovery process? 

  • Post-workout carbs trigger the secretion of insulin, a hormone responsible to transport essential aminos into muscle cells. Basically, insulin will help in better protein synthesis. 
  • Post-workout carbohydrates help in replenishes the glycogen reserves that energize the muscle tissues. 
  • Carbohydrates hold water, which keeps your body hydrated and makes your muscles look fuller. 
  • Feeding some Pre-workout carbohydrates elevate the muscle glycogen level and improves workout performance which results in better gains. 
  • Without enough carbohydrates, you will lose muscle mass because there is not enough insulin to transport energy and nutrients into the muscle cells. 

As we can see, carbs are directly and indirectly assisting in the maintenance and development of muscle mass.  

Even pro-athletes on the low carb diet strategically include some amount of carbs in their meals to refuel body for better performance and faster recovery. 

Carb planning and cycling

Sometimes the biggest reason for not achieving the set fitness goals is because of planning carbohydrates at the wrong time. Let’s get through the four basic rules of carb planning to help you achieve your dream physique. 

1# Know the carb you are consuming

Dealing with carbs is like playing with a double edged sword, one wrong move and you have to deal with unfavourable consequences. 

Carbohydrates are basically categorised into two categories: 

  • High glycemic index (GI) carbs
  • Low glycemic index (GI) carbs

GI value refers to how fast the carbohydrate is broken down into glucose to be used for energy. 

High Glicemic index (GI) carbs are quickly absorbed and leads to acute spike in insulin levels. Some of the examples of high GI carbs are: 

  • Table sugar
  • White potatoes
  • Regular soda
  • Regular pasta
  • Most white rice
  • White bread/plain bagel
  • Sports drinks
  • Sugary cereals

Low GI carbs takes longer to be digested by the system and assist in providing body a sustainable amount of energy. Some of the examples of low GI carbs are: 

  • Oatmeal
  • Whole wheat pasta
  • Brown rice
  • Quinoa
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Beans
  • Whole grain bread
  • Most Fruits 

Knowing the GI index of carb you eat will help in planning them at the right time, there is going to be a time when your body will require a boost in energy and some time body requires continuous energy for a longer duration. 

2# Know when to get low GI carb

Plan most of your meals with the right ratio of protein, fats, and low GI carbohydrates. Low GI carbs will avoid the spike in insulin levels which eventually leads to stopping the body from storing excess glycogen in the form of fats. 

Most of the bodybuilders make the mistake by feeding themselves only High GI carbs in the pre-workout meal. Fast-digesting food surely provides a boost in energy but it quickly runs out too. Including slow-digesting carbs with a scoop of whey protein 30-minutes prior to work seems like a better option for long-lasting energy during training sessions. 

3# Know when to load High GI carbs

So you have your daily macro requirement established already. Whether you are on a bulking phase or cutting phase, taking a serving of fast digesting high GI carbs within 30 minute after workout has many benefits. 

This fast-digesting carb will not just help in restoring the lost glycogen levels but it will also help in boosting the insulin levels. Insulin helps in transporting nutrients into the cell and the faster absorption of nutrients. 

We suggest you shoot for about 30-80 grams of those High GI carbs along with fast-acting whey, creatine and L-carnitine with your post-workout carb for fast absorption, and quick recovery process. 

4# Cycle it right

Carb cycling has been one of the prominent solutions to cut down the fat percentage. Cycling carbs involves the increase and decrease of carb intake in a planned manner. 

A low carb day will include around .5 grams carbs per pound and High carb day will contain 2 to 2.5 grams of carbs per pound of body. 

One thing to note here, you should be doing heavy compound movements on the high carb days and isolation movements on low carb days.  Here is a sample of weekly carb cycling. 

DayExerciseCarb Intake
TuesdayChest & shouldersModerate
WednesdayBiceps, TricepsLow
SaturdayChest & shouldersModerate
SundayRest dayLow

This chart may differ according to your workout schedule and intensity.

Macro mapping of Body type (for carb sensitivity)

Biggest mistake many people are doing is following a common diet. 

As we specified earlier “universal macro ratio is a lie”, every individual need to plan their macro requirements in accordance to their body-type, metabolic rate and weekly activity rate.  

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends, 45 to 65 percent of daily calories come from carbohydrates but that’s not what you are looking for while in cutting phase. 

Body types are broadly categorized into three types. 

Ectomorph: If you are a naturally thin and skinny person then you probably have a high tolerance to insulin. Such body type has got a fast metabolic rate which helps them to maintain a lean physique. But these guys also find it quite difficult to pack on muscle mass. 

You should probably start with the ratio of  25% protein, 55% carbs and 20% fat. 

Mesomorph: This body type is naturally muscular and athletic, it’s an ideal body type that has a moderate metabolic rate. These guys can gain in a calorie surplus and find it really easy to maintain muscle mass.  

You can start with the macro ratio of 30% protein, 40% carb, 30% fat . 

Endomorph: Are you naturally broad with a thick skeletal structure? Then you are probably an endomorph. The most annoying body type with slowest metabolic rate, these guys gain too quickly but loses too slow. 

Starting with the ratio of 35% protein, 25% carbs and 40% fat.

Once you start the see the results then you can play with the macronutrients to see the improvement in body composition.  

You might have a mixed body types as well, for example: Ecto-Mesomorph or Endo-mesomorph. 

Bonus tips for your cutting phase. 

Cutting diet can bring extraordinary results in a short duration of time, but there are some small mistakes that can distract you from your goal. To keep you on your body transformation track here are some bonus tips for you. 

Don’t skip the fats: yes you are trying to shred down that accumulated fat from the body but that should not be a reason to shut down your fat intake. Fats plays crucial role (2) while cutting phase as well. Fats has a great impact on your hormonal regulation and low fat consumption may lead to low testosterone levels (3, 4). 

Eat more fiber rich food: Fiber rich food not only helps in keeping you fuller for longer periods of time, they are also nutritionally dense. These food items will keep you fuller in the caloric deficit state (5).

Hydrate, hydrate and hydrate: it’s very important to stay hydrated while on any kind of diet. Cutting down fats also force body to release stored water from body. Keeping yourself well hydrated will help in better cognitive function and improved metabolic rate.  

Meal prep: Before you start your cutting phase, have a habit of preparing your meals on your own. Preparing your all day meal will save you from messing up your hard work.HIIT: Including High intensity training will boost up the metabolic stress which will help in accelerated fat loss and improved testosterone levels. 

Thanks for reading. Questions welcomed in the comments as always. 

This site contains affiliate links as well as general health and fitness information. Please read my Medical Disclaimer and Writing Disclaimer for more information.    

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