Ever since the Atkins diet became so hugely popular not all that long ago, people have viewed carbohydrates much differently when it comes to their weight, health, and general nutrition. For years upon years we were led to believe that fat was public enemy number 1, 2, and 3 when it came to poor health and weight gain. As time has gone by however, people began experimenting with their diets and discovered some pretty interesting results. Whereas fat was once the enemy, people discovered that perhaps fat wasn’t as bad as they were led to believe, and that carbohydrates were in fact the problem. As a result, many people, particularly people looking to lose weight, athletes, and bodybuilders, began following low carb diets on a day to day basis. Some people however, especially those who were especially active such as bodybuilders or athletes, did something known as carb loading or carb re-feeding in which they consume vast amounts of carbohydrates every so often, with the sole purpose of improving their athletic performance, or simply just their physiques in general.
What is carb re-feeding? – Our bodies use carbohydrates as a form of energy, or rather our bodies break down carbohydrates and convert them into glucose sugar and glycogen which is then forced into our cells and used for energy. When we take carbohydrates away by following a low-carb diet, our bodies no longer use glucose for energy and instead use body fat for energy instead. When we exercise however, glucose and glycogen stores in our muscles become diminished, which can severely affect our muscular and athletic performance. If you’re looking to build muscle, or take part in an athletic event, the last thing you want is your muscles struggling due to a lack of energy, which is why people follow structured carb re-feeds. Take athletes, many of them carb load the night before a big race, to allow their muscles to become saturated with glycogen, which then fuels them more efficiently. As with most things however, there are pros and cons associated with carb re-feeds.
Pro – You have more energy – The main benefit associated with carb re-feeds is that your muscles will become saturated with glycogen which they then use for energy. As they have so much energy, they can work for incredibly long periods of time before fatiguing and cramping up.
Con – You need to time it right – To benefit from a proper carb re-feed you will need to time it just right so that your body benefits from the sudden increase in energy. It’s no good eating a huge plate of pasta an hour before a big race, or else you’ll simply feel tired and bloated. At the same time, you need to eat at just the right time the night before, so that by the time you do wake up, all of those nutrients are now firmly packed inside your muscles.
Pro – You get to enjoy carbs – For people following low-carb diets, re-feed day is one of the happiest days in a number of weeks. They get to eat foods which they’ve craved for so long, without having to feel guilty as they are in fact a part of their diets.
Con – You must eat enough – To really benefit from carb re-feeds you will need to ensure that you consume just the right amounts. Too much and your body won’t be able to process it all. Too little and your muscles just won’t benefit. For that reason, if you aren’t able to eat large amounts then you may struggle to get enough carbohydrates in your body during your re-feeds.