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Friday, 11 March 2016

Health Benefits of Kefir

Kefir is all the rage in the natural health community.
It is high in nutrients and probiotics, and is incredibly beneficial for digestion and gut health.
Many people consider it to be a healthier and more powerful version of yogurt.
Here are 9 health benefits of kefir that are supported by research.

1. Kefir is a Fantastic Source of Many Nutrients

Kefir is a fermented drink, traditionally made using cow’s milk or goat’s milk.
It is made by adding kefir “grains” to milk.
These are not grains in the conventional sense, but cultures of yeast and lactic acid bacteria that resemble a cauliflower in appearance.
Over a period of 24 hours or so, the microorganisms in the kefir grains multiply and ferment the sugars in the milk, turning it into kefir.
Then the grains are removed from the liquid, and can be used again.
This is what kefir (jar) and kefir grains (spoon) look like:
Kefir and Kefir Grains
So basically, kefir is the drink, but kefir grains are the “starter kit” that you use to produce the drink.
Kefir originated from parts of Eastern Europe and Southwest Asia. The name is derived from the Turkish word keyif, which means “feeling good” after eating (1).
The lactic acid bacteria turn the lactose in the milk into lactic acid, so kefir tastes sour like yogurt, but has a thinner consistency.
A 175 ml (6 oz) serving of milk kefir contains (23):
  • Protein: 6 grams.
  • Calcium: 20% of the RDA.
  • Phosphorus: 20% of the RDA.
  • Vitamin B12: 14% of the RDA.
  • Riboflavin (B2): 19% of the RDA.
  • Magnesium: 5% of the RDA.
  • A decent amount of vitamin D.
This is coming with about 100 calories, 7-8 grams of carbs and 3-6 grams of fat, depending on the type of milk that is used.
Kefir also contains a wide variety of bioactive compounds, including organic acids and peptides that contribute to its health benefits (1).
Dairy-free versions of kefir can be made with coconut water, coconut milk or other sweet liquids. These will not have the same nutrient profile as dairy-based kefir.
Bottom Line: Kefir is a fermented milk drink, cultured from kefir grains. It is a rich source of calcium, protein and B-vitamins.

2. Kefir is a More Powerful Probiotic Than Yogurt

Man Holding a Glass of Milk
Some microorganisms can have beneficial effects on health when ingested (4).
Known as probiotics, these microorganisms can influence health in numerous ways, including digestion, weight management and mental health (567).
Yogurt is the best known probiotic food in the Western diet, but kefir is actually a much more potent source.
Kefir grains contain about 30 strains of bacteria and yeasts, making it a very rich and diverse probiotic source.
Other fermented dairy products are made from far fewer strains, and don’t contain any yeasts.
Bottom Line: Kefir contains about 30 different microorganisms, making it a much more potent source of probiotics than other fermented dairy products.

3. Kefir Has Potent Antibacterial Properties

Kefir Grains in a Bowl and a Kefir Drink
Certain probiotics in kefir are believed to protect against infections.
This includes the probiotic Lactobacillus kefiri, which is unique to kefir.
Studies show that this probiotic can inhibit the growth of various harmful bacteria, including Salmonella, Helicobacter Pylori and E. coli (89).
Kefiran, a type of carbohydrate present in kefir, also has antibacterial properties (10).
Bottom Line: Kefir contains the probiotic Lactobacillus kefiri, and the carbohydrate kefiran, both of which can protect against harmful bacteria.

4. Kefir Can Improve Bone Health and Lower The Risk of Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis (“porous” bones) is characterized by deterioration of bone tissue, and is a massive problem in Western countries.
Older Male Doctor, Smaller
It is especially common among elderly women, and dramatically raises the risk of fractures.
Ensuring an adequate calcium intake is one of the most effective ways to improve bone health, and slow the progression of osteoporosis (11).
Kefir made from full-fat dairy is not only a great source of calcium, but also vitamin K2. This nutrient plays a central role in calcium metabolism, and supplementing with it has been shown to reduce the risk of fractures by as much as 81% (1213).
Recent animal studies have shown that kefir can increase calcium absorption by bone cells. This leads to improved bone density, which should help prevent fractures (14).
Bottom Line: Kefir made from dairy is an excellent source of calcium. In the case of full-fat dairy, it also contains vitamin K2. These nutrients have major benefits for bone health.

5. Kefir May be Protective Against Cancer

Kefir Grains in a Brown Bowl
Cancer is one of the world’s leading causes of death.
It occurs when there is an uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the body, such as a tumor.
The probiotics in fermented dairy products are believed to inhibit tumor growth by reducing formation of carcinogeniccompounds, as well as by stimulating the immune system (15).
This protective role has been demonstrated in several test tube studies (1617).
One study found that kefir extract reduced the number of human breast cancer cells by 56%, compared with only 14% for yogurt extract (18).
However, take all of this with a grain of salt, as this is far from being proven in living, breathing humans.
Bottom Line: Some test tube and animal studies have shown that kefir can inhibit the growth of cancer cells. This has not been studied in people.

6. The Probiotics in it May Help With Various Digestive Problems

Kefir Drink in a Jug
Probiotics such as kefir can help restore the balance of friendly bacteria in the gut.
This is why they are highly effective for many forms of diarrhea (1920).
There is also a lot of evidence that probiotics and probiotic foods can help with all sorts of digestive problems (5)
This includes irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), ulcers caused by H. pylori infection, and various others (21222324).
For this reason, kefir may be useful if you have problems with digestion.
Bottom Line: Probiotics like kefir can treat several forms of diarrhea. They can also lead to major improvements in various digestive diseases.

7. Kefir is Generally Well Tolerated by People Who Are Lactose Intolerant

Brunette Drinking Milk With Milk Mustache
Regular dairy foods contain a natural sugar called lactose.
Many people, especially adults, are unable to break down and digest lactose properly. This condition is called lactose intolerance (25).
The lactic acid bacteria in fermented dairy foods (like kefir and yogurt) turn the lactose into lactic acid, so these foods are much lower in lactose than milk.
They also contain enzymes that can help break down the lactose even further.
Because of this, kefir is generally well tolerated by people with lactose intolerance, at least when compared to regular milk (26).
Also keep in mind that it is possible to make kefir that is 100% lactose free, by using coconut water, fruit juice or some other non-dairy fluid.
Bottom Line: The lactic acid bacteria have already pre-digested the lactose in kefir. People with lactose intolerance can often eat kefir without problems.

8. Kefir May Improve Symptoms of Allergy and Asthma

Kefir Grains on a Brown Plate
Allergic reactions are caused by inflammatory responses against harmless environmental substances.
People with an over-sensitive immune system are more prone to allergies, which can provoke conditions like asthma.
In animal studies, kefir has been shown to suppress inflammatory responses related to allergy and asthma (2728).
Human studies are need to better explore these effects.

9. Kefir is Easy to Make at Home

Young Blonde Cooking
The last one is not a health benefit, but important nonetheless.
If you are unsure about the quality of store-bought kefir, then you can easily make it at home yourself.
Combined with some fresh fruit, it makes one of the healthiest and tastiest desserts I have ever come across.
You can buy kefir grains in some health food stores and supermarkets.
It is also available on Amazon (see here), with hundreds of reviews, testimonials and tips from real customers.
There are some good blog posts and videos on how to make kefir, but the process is very simple:
  • Put 1-2 tablespoons of kefir grains into a small jar. The more you use, the faster it will culture.
  • Add around 2 cups of milk, preferably organic or even raw. Milk from grass-fed cows is healthiest. Leave one inch of room at the top of the jar.
  • You can add some full-fat cream if you want the kefir to be thicker.
  • Put the lid on and leave it for 12-36 hours, at room temperature. That’s it.
Once it starts to look clumpy, it is ready. Then you gently strain out the liquid, which leaves behind the original kefir grains.
Now put the grains in a new jar with some milk, and the process starts all over again.
Delicious, nutritious and highly sustainable.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

ALKALIZE YOUR BODY AND DETOX NATURALLY

Acidosis, a condition that appears when our body pH is too acidic, can lead to a lot of health problems. Acidic imbalance reduces our body’s ability to absorb minerals and nutrients. It reduces the cell’s capacity to repair itself. It also prevents the body from detoxifying naturally.

How to balance your body’s pH

  1. Drink plenty of water. The amount of water you need daily depends especially of your weight.  To balance your body’s normal pH, you will need to drink a bit more than usual, about 7oz per 10lbs of your body weight.  As example, if you weight 130lbs, you should drink about 91 of water, or around 3 liters.  Pure water can do the trick but to speed up the process, you can also drink alkaline water. Some specialized (and costly) equipment can give you alkaline water. But if you don’t have one at home, drinking water with a bit of baking soda in it will do the trick.  Dissolve ½ teaspoon in 6oz of water and drink every morning until your body’s pH has returned to normal.
  2. Avoid coffee and sodas. Those drinks are highly acidic and can reverse all your alkalinizing efforts by raising your body’s pH.  If you can’t ditch coffee completely, at least reduce your intake to one cup a day, and better try to buy low acidity coffee. This can be found in the natural aisle of your grocery store or in health stores.
  3. Eat your greens. Green leafy vegetables like kale, collard greens, turnip tops, mustard greens and spinach are very alkalinizing for the body. Try to eat it raw by making a big salad mixed with other alkalinizing food like cucumbers, lettuce, tomatoes, celery, cabbage, cauliflower, carrots or onions. A good trick is to prepare a huge bowl in advance, keep it in the fridge and eat a big bowl every day.
  4. Ditch dairy products. Cow’s milk has shown to produce an abundance of mucus in the human body.  Many people also suffer from a hidden allergy or intolerance, which can increase the acid wastes in the body. Choosing almond, rice or organic soy “milk” and “milk” products will help you detox naturally and alkalinize your body.
  5. Avoid sugars. Artificial sweeteners are the worst, followed by refined sugar.  Sugar is acidic and decreases the body’s pH.  Natural sweeteners like honey, agave nectar or dried fruits are generally safe, but if you try to alkalinize your body, it would be a good thing to reduce your natural sugar intake as well for a while.
  6. Go vegetarian. Meat, especially red one along with pork and lamb can be very acidic and produces a lot of metabolic waste.  If you must have meat, at least choose wild fish or organic chicken and turkey and reduce your overall meat intake.
  7. Eat grapefruit. Grapefruit, like lemons, are great to alkalinize the body.  Grapefruit are very high in water, and contains a powerful substance to help you detox naturally. Try to eat one every day during the body’s pH balancing process. Eat it like an orange and without sugar though, as it’s in the very thin skin between each grapefruit segment that contains the detox substance.
  8. Avoid processed and refined food. This includes anything made with white flour, like pastas, bread, cake, muffins, croutons, etc… Also avoid prepared food that contains food colorings, preservatives, added flavors and other additives.  Choose foods with the shortest ingredient list, and with ingredients that you can recognize.
  9. Reduce stress. Implement a daily practice of a stress reducing activity like yoga, tai chi, meditation or even simple deep breathing.  Stress plays a huge role in the body’s pH.  Stress also speed up ageing, so it’s a good thing to learn to let go.
  10. Get yourself moving. Being active is essential to good health.  Exercises improve blood circulation and help to detox naturally.  The sweat produced during exercise also contributes to flush out toxins including acidic waste.  Try to exercise daily, at least 30 minutes a day.
If you implement one step each day, there’s a tremendous possibility that you will be amazed with the results on how you feel.  Remember though that the name of the game is progress, not perfection. Be kind to yourself and take it slowly.  And as you learn more about alkalinizing the body, but sure to understand that it’s all about balance. You don’t want to end up with the other side of the problem and end up with a body that is too alkaline. Of course this is highly unlikely if you follow natural methods, but it could happen to someone drinking huge amounts of very alkaline water over a prolonged period. So the key here again is balance

Friday, 16 October 2015

10 Reasons everybody should Track Strength Training


Recently I came across some articles about why Athletes should be tracked anywhere on the field. I think anyone practicing Strength Training to reach a specific goal should be tracking their efforts, so I decided to play this “game” and listed my 10 most important reasons everybody should use a tracking device when lifting. Any comment is welcome!

1 – Quantification: Metrics are purely objective. Combined with our sensations and our experience, which make the  subjective part, they complete the reference we should rely on when trying to know ourselves better or when we’re trying to make a decision.
Screen Shot 2015-09-10 at 09.19.05
2 – Live Feedback : Among factors that contribute to empower the energy and the motivation we put into our lifting sessions, Live Feedback is one or is the most important one. As soon as your effort will be turned into a number, or a bar in a histogram, you want to pump that bar as high as it can go, no doubt about it! A study from Randell et Al. shows how training performance is enhanced by Real Live Feedback and how the monitored training group improved faster than the non monitored. Source:  Effect of instantaneous performance feedback during 6 weeks of velocity-based resistance training on sport-specific performance tests. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 25(1), 87-93.
3  –  Quantification and Metrics can immediately stimulates the competitive nature of many people, from the Athlete to the Average Joe. When competition kicks in, motivation rises and training becomes more fun. Turn your workouts into a game: every time it’s hammer time!!!
hammer_ringing_highstriker_hg_clr
Every time is hammer time!!
4 – Know your best: training requires a lot of energy and for many people it is a challenge. For many it represents the beginning of a journey that will improve self Awareness towards our body and our organism. We want to know what we are doing.
5 – it promotes Autoregulation :  game time, education, family and relationship issues, night life, exaggerate work time.. life is full of unpredictable and variable inputs of stress that dramatically influences our daily conditions and to which we must account for when we’re looking for an optimized lifting program. “Auto regulation” is a way to manage the Intensity and the Volume of the Training Session by adjusting them to our body’s daily conditions. This leads to Prevention of failure,avoid overtraining and under training. Tracking help us stay on the optimal progressing path.
6 – It is Easy and Cool. Wearables are like a laboratory. Except they weight less than 40 grams and are available on your wrist.

7 – No more testing sessions, Testing is unreliable and most of it is a huge waste of time. Let your decision be based on tens or even hundreds and thousands of hours of training instead of one quick and hurried test.
Load Velocity Profile
Inertial Muscular Profles
The last three are my top 3 favourites:
8 – Strength by speeds : although very effective, how complicated are Workout instructions with Percentage Based Training Style ?
Give me 3-4 sets of 2 maybe 4 reps @ 80% if you can even 85% of your max 1RM.
What??
At leasts some questions arise: when should I do 3 instead of 4? Is 2 reps better than 4? Do I become stronger/faster when I use 85% instead of 80%?? By the way how much is my 1RM?
Instead, how about:
Try the maximum load you can hit between 1 and 1.1m/s every rep.
Stop your set when your speed drops below that zone and work for a total of 30 reps.
Spanish researchers Gonzàlez-Badillo and Sanchez-Medina demonstrated that the intensity of the exercise is directly correlated to the mean speed of your reps so you can target different Strength qualities by hitting the corresponding Speed Zones.

9 – Learning and Recommendations: Big Data, Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence techniques applied to the Workout History help find connections and correlations in the Data. What if we could effortlessly keep our Training Diary and have some super expert analyst access it to find out what is hidden below the data? Eventually we will be able to improve Routine Design, Periodisation and workout sessions with suggestions on training frequency, exercise correlations and optimal conditions. Legend says one of the best secrets of Louie Simmons, arguably the best Strength Guru out there, is having an assistant coach keeping Official Stats about the lifting sessions happening into Westside Barbell Club just like it was a Basketball Game.
Screen Shot 2015-09-09 at 12.48.57
10 – Remote Training and Scouting By tracking Strength on a Cloud based system, the data is immediately available online everywhere in the world. If you’re a coach, this could allow you to check your trainees’ work even when they’re away from your gym. On the other side, if you’re a trainer you can design and optimise your training programs and make them available to your customers everywhere in the world.
Screen Shot 2015-09-09 at 12.51.15

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Holiday? Flat stomach time.

Follow these 5 easy tips on how to keep a flat stomach and prevent bloating while on holiday. 
Brilliant sunshine, waves lapping on the shore and a beautiful beach are hardly the best time to feel bloated. Discover five easy ways to a flat tummy stomach on holiday.
Fluid & Fibre
When it’s hot you need to keep hydrated so make sure you get plenty of water and soft drinks. Keep active too - a gentle walk when the temperature cools also helps your gut do its job. A change of scene often involves a change of habits and food, which can lead to difficulty going to the loo. But beware fibre overload, little by little does the trick.

Suits you? 
Bloating can come from allergies and intolerance to certain foods. Keep an eye on milk, eggs, wheat, gluten and fructose (fruit sugar) to check they’re not upsetting your digestion. 
Pass the potassium 
Too much salt can cause bloating through water retention, and sodium levels may be higher in processed or restaurant foods. The remedy? More potassium, found in bananas, white beans, lima beans and soy beans. 
Say yes to yoghurt 
Probiotics contain active cultures that encourage good gut bacteria like lactobacillus and bifidobacterium. For sweetness, add a little fresh fruit. 
Can the carbonates 
Bubbles give you bloat. Choose still drinks instead.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Get race ready!

Surely not? If I want to get better at running, then surely the best thing to do is get out there and run... no? 
I don't hold a plank or throw in a mid race burpee, so why would I need to do that in my training?

Follow this running specific training guide that targets the 4 key muscle groups used whilst running to find out why they're important. Then find out the 7 best strength exercises to become an injury free running machine.

4 Key Muscle Groups

Core
Developing good core strength helps your pelvis, abs, hips and lower back to work together when you run. It will also help improve your stability and balance.

Hips, Hamstrings, Glutes
Develop these 3 muscles to improve your running performance. The Biomechanical process of these 3 muscles is called hip extension. The more powerful that your hip extension is, the faster you will go. The hips help to stabilise your landing and the drive in every stride.

Lower Back
Keeping your lower back strong will help prevent any strain on the hamstrings, it will also help to keep you injury free.

Upper Back & Shoulders

A strong set of shoulders will help you to breathe more efficiently when you run. If your upper back and shoulders are weak it will give your arms a difficult job to propel you when you run. 
Treadmills at Virgin Active
7 Quick Exercises To Help You Smash Your PB'S

TRX Core Crunch 
Place both feet in the two available handles. Adopt a press up stance (Hands directly underneath your shoulders) so that your feet are now being held up by the trx. Then bring both knees towards your chest and then back out and repeat. If this is too difficult then simply hold that stance.

Side Plank
Support your body weight on one elbow (directly underneath shoulder) and with the other hand tuck underneath your body and then reach all the way up towards the ceiling.

Medicine Ball Russian Twists
Grab yourself a medium sized medicine ball. Sit on your bum, lift your legs up and lean back to balance yourself. Keeping a straight body, move the med ball from side to side.

Burpees
With a burpee, position 1 is lying chest to floor and position 2 is jumping up from there. How you get between the two is up to you. Imagine you're jumping up after hearing your favourite song.

Kettlebell Swing
Stand with your feet, shoulder width apart. Hold the kettlebell with both hands and make sure your knuckles are facing away from your body. From there you are going bend your knees slightly and push your bum back and keep your chest up. Then you are going to thrust your pelvis forwards to create the swing, and be ready for the return of the kettle bell to then repeat.

Sandbag Overhead Walking Lunge
Lift the sandbag so it's above your head, keeping your arms completely straight. Then lunge forward keeping your chest up, your knee at 90 degrees and your back knee touching the ground and then continue so it replicates walking.

Swiss Ball Leg Curls
Lie on your back, and put your calves (the back of your lower leg) on to the swiss ball. Keep your hands on the floor to help you balance. Lift your hips up so that there is one straight line from your shoulder to knee. With your heels drag the ball towards you until your feet are flat on the ball. Keep your hips up and your bum tensed throughout.

The Workout 
You are going to perform these exercises in a combination circuit. You have 7 stations to work through (using the exercises above) you'll work through each station for 45 seconds with a 15 seconds rest in between each station. You'll do 2 complete circuits, 14 minutes work. Then you'll rest for 2 minutes. Then you'll complete another 2 circuits. So including your rest periods its a quick 30 minute workout. Leaving you sometime at the end of these circuits to jump on the treadmill for 2 x 1k run with a minute rest in between. Aiming to complete the 1k as quickly as possible.

This workout is designed to improve your strength and endurance in a short space of time. I strongly advise to download the a timer app onto your phone. 'Seconds' is a good timer for interval training. That way you can re create race like conditions by working to a strict time scale, and it will help you to push yourself.

I look forward to hearing about you all smashing your personal bests.

Friday, 7 August 2015

The benefits of yoga

Yoga is not about trying to force your body into a pretzel like position, it’s about creating a healthy lifestyle. 
The postures give you the tools to prepare yourself physically and mentally for your daily life. The practice allows participants of all ages, shapes, sizes, and abilities to be still in a world often consumed by chaos. Deep breathing and meditation techniques help foster an inner shift from to-do lists, kids and spouse’s needs, financial concerns, relationship struggles to something a little bit bigger than the everyday issues we all face. Yoga helps to relieve stress, unclutter the mind, and promote a sense of wellbeing. 
Today, yoga is taking over the health and fitness world. With professional athletes like Andy Murray and Ryan Giggs publicly speaking out about the benefits that yoga has brought them in their chosen sports, more people are taking the plunge and trying out yoga classes. Unlike other forms of ‘training’, the practice of yoga unfolds over time to reveal many layers of physical benefits and personal revelations. More and more people are discovering the many ways that yoga can be used to improve athletic performance by increasing mental concentration, improving flexibility and balance, preventing common injuries and fine tuning skills in their particular sport. 
Most yoga classes and practitioners use postures (asanas) to prepare their bodies for meditation practice, much like an athlete would prepare for a sports competition. The posture acts as a vehicle to examine awareness of mind and body. In yoga, perfecting posture for meditation comes not so much by doing but of not doing. We have to put some effort into training the body to be aligned, however after that is accomplished, the next step is to learn to do nothing, and enter a space of stillness. It is an active form of doing nothing, of consciously ceasing to put any effort into the posture. This effort to release any form of effort can be felt internally. This process is the purpose of yoga; focusing on the journey rather than the goal. In its essence, all yoga is designed to unite (yoke) and bring peace and harmony to the body, mind and spirit. 
The benefits of yoga
Yoga focuses on balancing strength with flexibility therapeutically, having incredible benefits for the physical body. The postures are designed to strengthen the body from the inside out, so you don’t just look good, you feel good too. Twists squish and improve the digestive system; backbends strengthen and lengthen the front and back muscles of the torso and legs, keeping our central nervous system healthy; forward bends release tight hamstrings while massaging the digestive system and promote a sense of calm and clarity. There is something for everyone whatever the level of fitness. 
Through regular yoga practice, all fitness and sports people can benefit. This is especially true when injuries occur from pushing too hard. A regular practice can restore a weakened body and build it back up. Postures, breath work and concentration will rebalance, strengthen and restore fatigued, overworked muscles, joints and ligaments. It will also improve concentration, calm the mind, and create a strong sense of focus. Whatever your reason for attending a yoga class, there is no doubt that a consistent and regular practice will significantly increase your sense of wellbeing. 
One of the great benefits of modern Hatha yoga is that you can choose a style that is suitable for you, such as Ashtanga, Hot, Power, Restorative, Vinyasa Flow, Aerial, Acro etc. It’s important for anyone starting a yoga practice to find a suitably qualified yoga teacher you connect with. The possibilities are limitless with a huge variety of options available to suit your goals and needs, so no matter your fitness level, or health history, yoga has a place for you.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Understanding the Macros

With the emergence of nutritional approaches such as the ketogenic and paleo plans (both high in Low Carbproteins and fats, and lower in carbs), carbohydrates; macromolecules often beneficial for good health and performance and at one time an integral part of any good bodybuilder’s eating plan, are not as readily consumed as they once were. With much confusion concerning the role carbohydrates play in producing energy and keeping us supplied with a full complement of valuable vitamins, minerals and fiber, many are uncertain as to how and when to include carbs in a diet conducive to sustaining health and wellbeing and building muscle mass. 
Increasingly maligned and neglected, carbohydrates are being used more strategically than ever: fearing they will lead to unwanted weight gain, many lifters are replacing a percentage of their carbs with additional proteins and fats, only eating them at certain times, and often dropping them completely. 
Over-consuming certain carbs at the wrong times can result in more adipose than additional muscle weight, but this problem can be rectified by knowing which carbs do what and when they may be eaten for maximum results. But we must first try to determine how many carbohydrate grams are needed per day to produce more beef than a Texas cattle ranch. 
A bodybuilder’s carbohydrate RDA 
RDAThough not essential for survival, as the body may draw from both proteins and fats for energy purposes, carbs do provide the most efficient energy source for hard training athletes and, importantly for bodybuilders, may ensure that protein is spared (low carb diets can (not necessarily will) cause the body to leach protein from muscle to produce energy via gluconeogenesis).
However, achieving the correct carb consumption is complicated. When eating for performance and lean muscle gains, our activity level, the types of carbs we eat, our hydration status (it is crucial to be well hydrated when consuming a high carb diet), and many other mediating factors including rest, recovery, fat and protein consumption and our genetic makeup will affect how we respond to the carbs we consume. So closely monitor how your body adjusts to a particular carb regime and scale their intake up or down accordingly. Furthermore, even the best of carb ratios may result in poorly balanced blood sugar levels if not properly balanced with an adequate complement of protein and fat (see the previous articles in the series for recommendations on those).
So which carbs are best, how they might these affect performance and body composition?
Which carbs are best?
CarbsWhile all carbohydrates are classed as sugars and are ultimately converted into glucose before immediately being utilized for fuel or stored, primarily in the muscles or the liver, as glycogen, different carb sources, though possessing the same caloric composition per gram, can have vastly different effects. 
The two main types of carbohydrate are starches (polysaccharides, or complex carbs, which also include fibrous carbs such as leafy green vegetables) and sugars (monosaccharides and disaccharides). For athletic performance and general health and wellbeing (which is fundamental to ensuring optimal athletic performance), both carbohydrates types have their place, but it is the complex, starchy carbs that are most desirable. Some vegetables, grains, certain breads and pasta can be classified as starchy carbs, while sweets, cake, soda and many convenience snack foods comprise the sugars (there are also sugars – lactose and fructose respectively – in dairy products such as milk and, though often considered a healthy food option, fruits, and especially fruit juices). 
The aim for health conscious people, including bodybuilders, is to select only those carb sources that will provide the highest spectrum of nutrients and to avoid those ‘empty’, concentrated carbohydrates which include table sugar, soda and other nutritionally deleterious fare.
Not all carbs are created equal. Complex carbs release energy slowly and are more sustaining, whereas simple sugars are rapidly assimilated, which may cause an overabundance of insulin to be released which in turn may result in fat storage and hypoglycemia (low energy due to diminished blood glucose resulting from excessive insulin release). 
Aside from selecting carbs based on the rate at which they are processed as energy (which can be determined in part via the glycemic food index – see below), we must also choose them for their Vegnutritional benefits and fiber composition. For the most part, vegetables (all varieties, in particular fibrous types such as broccoli, spinach, and Brussels sprouts), whole grains, and certain fruits (for example, bananas, apples and blueberries) are superior, micronutrient dense carb choices which also contain phytochemicals (naturally occurring chemical compound which have specific health-boosting nutritional properties) and fiber (the indigestible part of plant foods which boosts digestive health, can offset diseases such as cancer and diabetes, lower cholesterol levels, and produce feelings of satiety). 
(Note from Ben: I would personallly recommend you consume the majority of your carbohydrates during your workout, immediately post, and in the hours following, when attempting to maximize body composition).
Simple sugars are not inherently evil from a nutritional perspective. Though nutritionally inert (relatively speaking) junk foods should be avoided, high sugar fruits and some high grade simple sugar based supplements such as Vitargo can be consumed directly after intensive weight training sessions to promote faster recovery and to rapidly top up our depleted energy reserves.
Sweet PotatoFinally, a good rule of thumb when choosing quality carb sources is to opt for brown: rice, potatoes with skins intact and so on; excellent energy-sustaining carb options, which also provide a generous serving of fiber. Refined carbs, which are heavily processed and stripped of their beneficial fiber like white bread, are largely to be avoided. 
How glycemic are your carbs?
The glycemic index (GI) numbers food items according to how fast blood sugar levels rise after consumption. Ranging from 50 (indicating a marginal effect on blood sugar levels) to 100 (indicative of a rapid rise in blood sugar, as would occur when ingesting pure glucose), the glycemic index ranks a wide range of foods but does not take into consideration additional factors which may influence how fast blood sugar may rise after carb consumption (such as any dietary fat consumed with this carb source, which may help to stabilize blood sugar levels). Low GI foods include: most sweet fruits, vegetables, beans and small seeds. High GI foods include: white bread and rice, potatoes, pretzels, bagels, and glucose. 
Carb up wisely
Don’t ditch the carbs completely; just try to ensure they are comprised of low glycemic, healthful items, and that we supply our muscles with sufficient glycogen with which to power through the toughest workouts (note from Ben: this doesn’t specifically mean that you need to eat them pre-workout, I’ve discussed this before in other articles). We also ensure that enough health-giving nutrients, including fiber (of which most adults get nowhere near enough), are available to support the building of stronger and larger muscles. Forgo the extreme low / non-carb diets in most cases, unless specifically carb cycling (another article) pre-contest or otherwise.