When and What Carbohydrates Should I Use?

Carbohydrate Timing Active Foods Syrup | Bulk Powders®


Nutrient timing has often been a topic of varying opinion, however timing of certain nutrients specifically could be advantageous towards you reaching your goals. Carbohydrates in particular offer a good opportunity to take advantage of timing, and the different types of carbohydrates available contribute to the timing benefit.


Carbohydrates can often be separated in to many different categories: sugars, complex, Low GI, High GI, etc. However for the purpose of carbohydrate timing, a good way to look at carbohydrates is Fast Digesting and Slow Digesting.

Fast Digesting carbohydrates often include things like DextroseMaltodextrinVitargo® and high sugar foods (think sweets – gummy bears are a great example). These carbohydrates aim to clear the gut relatively quickly in order to provide you with a rapid supply of carbohydrates. These types of foods are often avoided on certain goals, however when timed correctly can still make up an important part of the diet in order to improve performance or support recovery.

Slow Digesting carbohydrates often include things like Oats, Sweet Potato, Brown Rice and Grains. These sources of carbohydrates clear the gut at a slow rate, over a prolonged period of time. This provides you with a sustained source of energy over a longer duration. Again, these types of carbohydrates can be seen as quite boring, or heavy so are often avoided for certain aims – but the functionality can be extremely important to achieving your goals.


Now we have separated carbohydrates out into two different types (Fast and Slow), we can look at how timing each one can be very advantageous to almost any goal.

Fast Digesting carbohydrates are ideal to use around the workout – either immediately before, during or after – this is irrespective of your goal. Consuming some fast digesting carbohydrates pre training can provide you with a rapid source of energy to boost training intensity/duration. When fast digesting carbohydrates are consumed post training they can help to replenish depleted muscle glycogen stores, whilst also helping to stimulate an insulin response. This helps to shuttle nutrients to the muscle – supporting protein synthesis and recovery from training, which is ideal for increasing muscle mass.

Fast digesting carbohydrates and high sugar items are often avoided during a weight loss programme, however when timed around the workout (and remaining within calorific targets) you can take advantage of fast digesting carbohydrates. Fast digesting carbohydrates in the context of a weight loss programme can be very important, particularly when training frequency and/or duration is increased – making recovery and retention of lean body mass of the up-most importance.

Top Tip

Pre/Intra Workout can be a great time to combine fast digesting carbohydrates with BCAA’s and/or Electrolytes to help reduce muscle breakdown and support hydration.

Post Workout it can be great to combine fast digesting carbohydrates with Protein and Creatine.

Slow Digesting carbohydrates are a great source of energy, ideal for use throughout the day (away from training). Again, this is irrespective of goal. Both gaining muscle mass and reducing body fat goals can take advantage of slow digesting carbohydrates throughout the day. Slow digesting carbohydrates are beneficial throughout the day as they do not fluctuate insulin levels to a great degree.

Away from training, it is important to keep blood sugar and insulin levels relatively stable as this helps to reduce the risk of energy being stored as body fat and directing them to the muscle. This is particularly important when you are looking to increase muscle mass, as the risk of storing energy as body fat is higher due to a higher calorific diet (diet is often higher in carbohydrates as well). Irrespective of controlling insulin response, slow digesting carbohydrates are beneficial for trying to achieve weight loss, as the slow digesting nature helps to improve feelings of fullness, which is particularly important when restricting food intake.

Top Tip

Combine slow digesting carbohydrates with lean sources of protein such as egg whites, beef, chicken, fish or pulses. If you are looking for convenience, why not make your own meal replacement shake and combine with Whey Protein, or try Micellar Casein if you want to utilise a slower digesting protein.

Carbohydrates can be successfully utilised for whatever goal, be it maintaining current body weight, increasing muscle mass or even reducing body fat. In order to benefit, the timing and type of carbohydrate can be used to great effect. Varying your slow digesting carbohydrate intake throughout the day and taking advantage of fast digesting carbohydrates around training can help you towards your goal.

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