Due to the “interwebs” there is all sort of conflicting advice on timings of starchy carbohydrates and it can seem somewhat confusing, but it boils down to 3 schools of thought.
1. After exercise
Any exercise undertaken that pushes the heart rate above 140 bpm is anaerobic, this includes weight training, metabolic conditioning, sprinting and intervals, but also any other activity could be anaerobic if you push hard enough. The fuel substrate used for anaerobic exercise is glucose, which is what dietary carbohydrate is broken down too and is stored in the muscles and liver. After intense exercise, the glucose stores will be run down and the body will want to refill them as quickly as possible. The muscles and liver will be very sensitive to any glucose in the blood stream and so these nutrients will be shuttled into the cells to replenish them.
This is advantageous because carbohydrates are easily stored in adipocytes (fat cells) if over consumed at other times of the day, and in this world of convenience food, they often are.
2. Before Exercise
Before exercise could mean at breakfast, dinner or within an hour or two before you train, and again it does depend on what type of intensity you intend on training at. If you are a kettlebell or strength training enthusiast, you will need carbs to fuel your exercise. If you are into more gentle exercise which is aerobic by nature, you don’t necessarily need to ingest carbs to train, you will use a mixture of carb and fat for your energy needs. Remember, you are only burning fat at low intensity, it varies from person to person and I can’t give you exact heart rate numbers. I can give you ball park figures which would be somewhere between 90bpm – 145bpm although I have seen some people who are able to burn fat at higher bpm than that. The only way you can find out is via a specific fuel substrate test. Back to my point. If you ingest carbs to fuel your exercise, come the end you will be fairly depleted, and if the exercise was intense enough and performed in a certain way, such as the metabolic conditioning type work we do in our classes, you will have raised your fat burning hormones AKA testosterone and growth hormone, and your metabolism.
Any carbs eaten now will shut off this fat burning effect as sugar raises insulin and insulin shuts down testosterone and growth hormone.
3. Whenever you want!
The two methods described above both work, the first one works best for people who tend to over eat and the second method will work best for people who undereat. They can help you shed body fat and achieve a leaner body, however, the vast majority of folk who want to get lean still don’t have enough of an understanding about their own metabolism and how it works. I’m talking things like, listening to your body and eating when hungry and stopping when full, ensuring you are getting enough over all calories and not experiencing energy slumps and cravings. If you are experiencing frequent bouts of hunger, low energy and cravings, worrying about timing your carbs is a little bit further down the road, resolve those issues first, and the answer to those problems is simply this – eat more protein, fibre and increase water intake. If you still experience hunger, low energy and cravings, increase your carbohydrate intake. When hunger, energy and cravings have diminished and your training is going consistently well, you should be starting to lean out, now you can start experimenting with carbohydrate timing and see what works best for you.
I hope that has been useful, feel free to contact me if you have questions or need further help.