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Drive Muscle Growth with a Perfect Ratio of Protein and Carbs
Support your bodybuilding regimen and rebalance your diet with a more precise intake of carbohydrates and protein.

When it comes to extreme muscle mass gain, some of the best advice I ever got probably came from my mom. "Everything in its proper place and time," she used to say. In dietary terms, what she meant by this is that every ingredient in a well-rounded diet plays an important role in achieving maximum well-being and performance. Take one out, and the other ingredients don't work as well. This is especially true of carbs and proteins, which work hand in hand to maximize protein synthesis during and after your workout, resulting in optimized muscle anabolism.

In short, show me a bodybuilder who is engaging in any sort of "fad diet" that shortchanges carbs, proteins or fats, and I'll show you an athlete on the road to ruin.

Of course, you may not regard my mom as a credible bodybuilding expert. Because of this, we've brought in two of the most respected and accomplished scientists in the field of sports performance nutrition; Dr. Richard Kreider Ph.D and Anssi Manninen M.H.S.

Dr. Kreider is the founder and director of the internationally renowned Exercise and Sports Nutrition Lab at Texas A & M  University. Dr. Kreider has conducted numerous studies on nutrition and exercise and is a Fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine. Anssi Manninen is a well-published research scientist in the field of sports nutrition. Anssi has published numerous papers on sports nutrition and performance-enhancing substances in scientific journals and has consulted numerous elite athletes, including Mr. Olympia competitors.

The Low-Carb Myth

It's no secret that carbs often get a bad rap among bodybuilders. In fact, much of the bodybuilding community associates "eating clean" with emphasizing proteins over carbs. "You can't build muscle unless you can train effectively," says Dr. Kreider.  "Carbohydrate is the primary fuel used for intense exercise training. When you lift weights, you can actually feel your muscles burning carbohydrate and converting it to hydrogen ions and lactic acid as you perform more repetitions. In fact, studies show that muscle glycogen levels may decrease as much as 60-90% during an intense resistance-training workout lasting 1-2 hours.

"If you don't consume enough carbohydrates in your diet," Dr. Kreider continues, "your muscle glycogen levels will be lower as you start a workout. It's like starting a workout with a gas tank that is half full.  The harder you work out, the more gas you use. Since you only have half a tank of gas, you will either run out of gas sooner or you will have to reduce intensity in order to make it through a workout. This means you won't be able to lift as much weight and/or complete as many repetitions from set to set, particularly toward the end of the workout. Training intensity and volume will suffer, leading to slower training adaptations. What's worse is since you don't have enough muscle glycogen to fuel the exercise bout, you will break down more protein in order to maintain blood glucose thereby negating some of the gains you have been trying to achieve to build muscle."

Like Dr. Kreider, Anssi Manninen believes that bodybuilders should eat moderate amounts of carbs when trying to maximize muscle gains. "This certainly does not mean that we are fans of old school ultra-high-carb 'weight gainers.' The key is to eat moderate amounts of carbs at the right time."  Manninen continues, "Your body needs muscle glycogen (i.e., a storage form of carbs) to fuel that intense workout you have planned at the gym.  Significant amount of glycogenolysis (i.e., breakdown of glycogen) can occur in response to acute bouts of anaerobic exercise such as resistance training.

"When the bodybuilder is performing multiple sets and repetitions, the available muscle glycogen may become a limiting factor that can impact the ability to handle the prescribed training load. Thus, bodybuilders should have relatively full glycogen stores when they start to hit the iron. Now, don't get me wrong; you do NOT need to follow a very high carb diet. It is enough if you get around 40 % of your daily calories from carbs."

"It is crystal clear that carb ingestion following resistance exercise stimulates muscle glycogen resynthesis. This may decrease recovery time following resistance exercise and enable an increase in training volume, which may enhance physiological adaptations (e.g., muscle hypertrophy). In addition, carb ingestion during and/or immediately after resistance exercise has been shown to increase post-exercise anabolic hormone levels (e.g., insulin, IGF-1, growth hormone) while reducing catabolic hormones (e.g., cortisol), which may lead to increased muscle protein anabolism and hypertrophy."

The Timing of Carb Intake

The timing of carb intake is critical when it comes to adequately 'carbing  up.'  "Bodybuilders should eat a meal that includes carbohydrate and protein 3-4 hours before training in order to top off muscle glycogen levels, say Dr. Kreider.  "They should then have a carbohydrate and protein snack, energy bar, or ready to drink (RTD) supplement 30-60 minutes before training.  This will provide carbohydrate for the later portions of the training session.  They should then consume carbohydrate and protein within 30 minutes after training to optimize recovery and glycogen replenishment.  The ratio of carbs to protein should generally be 4:1.  The worse thing to do is to maintain a low carbohydrate diet and train after a prolonged fast (e.g., early in the morning or after not eating all day).  This will reduce muscle glycogen availability, make it more difficult to train intensely, and promote more protein degradation during exercise," says Kreider.

"Ingesting a small amount of carbohydrate prior to exercise can improve the intensity of workouts.  Consuming carbohydrate after intense exercise is essential to replenish muscle glycogen (carbohydrate) used during exercise.  So while bodybuilders may not need a lot of carbohydrate in their diet, they must ingest enough to provide energy needed to maintain high quality training and recover from intense exercise.  In my experience, the Raptor  bar from Supreme Protein is perfect to meet these goals because it provides a blend of fast and slow releasing carbohydrates to fuel your workout and promote recovery.

Anssi Manninen says that many hard-core bodybuilders and other strength/power athletes use a product called MyoZene (by BioQuest) to boost muscle anabolism and exercise performance. "While MyoZene was scientifically engineered to dramatically stimulate post-exercise muscle anabolism, it can also be used to improve athletic performance," he says.  "It's generally recommended that one should take in around 1/2 serving of MyoZene immediately before and/or during exercise and a full serving immediately after exercise. This strategy will maximize both performance and post-exercise muscle anabolism."

"If you don't replace muscle glycogen fast after your workout, your muscle cells won't be able to repair themselves at optimum levels and you will experience less than desired results from your weight training program. This is where MyoZene comes into the picture. MyoZene was scientifically engineered to maximize post-exercise muscle protein anabolism and muscle glycogen re-synthesis," says Manninen.  "Just take in a full serving of MyoZene and you have everything covered. Around an hour or so later, eat a well-balanced meal containing all macronutrients; low to moderate glycemic carbs, animal protein and fats." 

"Other than immediately before, during and after your workouts, continues Manninen, "you should try to avoid high-glycemic carbs as much as possible throughout your day. You should also try to limit your consumption of all kind of carbs before you go to bed."

Know Your Carbs!

Dr. Kreider says that for athletes, a proper knowledge of carbs is critical. "You just have to know when and how to use them to your advantage. Most of the carbohydrate that you ingest in your diet should consist of complex carbohydrates without large amounts of added sugar.  However, you should ingest a mixture of low (e.g., fructose, galactose, isomaltulose) to moderate (e.g., lactose, honey, trehalose, sucrose) glycemic index carbohydrates prior to and during exercise so that you have a slow release of carbohydrate over time to help fuel your workout.  After exercise, it's better to consume moderate to high  glycemic indexed carbohydrates (e.g., dextrose, glucose, maltose, maltodextrin) in order to promote glycogen replenishment. Strategically ingesting the right types of carbohydrate prior to and following exercise can help you get the most out of your training."

"Furthermore, over the last number of years, a lot has been learned about the metabolic effects of ingesting different types of carbohydrate," says Dr. Kreider.  "Research has shown that ingesting different types of carbohydrate prior to and/or following exercise can optimize carbohydrate availability and/or storage.  These research advances have led to new formulations in energy bars and gels, like the Raptor bar."

"I've written about the Raptor bar before," Dr. Kreider says. "It contains 46 grams of a unique blend of low (fructose, oats), moderate (isomaltulose, sucrose), and high (maltodextrin) glycemic index carbohydrates that is designed to promote a quick and sustained release of carbohydrate over time.  It also contains 11 grams of high quality protein at a 4:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein with over 5 grams of essential amino acids (EAA).  Research has shown that ingesting EAA prior to, during, and following exercise can help reduce protein degradation during exercise and stimulate protein synthesis after exercise. This in itself is a real advancement in sport nutrition because it provides the right amount of carbohydrate and amino acids to optimize performance and recovery.

"The Raptor bar also contains glycerol that can help promote hydration; electrolytes (i.e., sodium, chloride, potassium, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus) which can help maintain neural control, hydration, and reduce the incidence of muscular cramping during exercise;  and Beta-Alanine that can support muscle buffering during high intensity exercise. To my mind, no other energy bar, sports gel, or sports drink comes close!"

Thanks to modern technology and advances in sports nutrition, today's bodybuilders and athletes are exposed to sound, research-based nutrition principles and superior guidance on how to optimally build muscle mass, develop explosive strength and achieve aesthetic perfection.

Properly timed and constituted carbs clearly play a big role in this process. We'd like to thank Dr. Kreider and Anssi Manninen for sharing their expertise with us, and to wish you all many rewarding hours in the gym!