Muscle glycogen is the athlete’s storage form of carbohydrate and the primary fuel that powers intense exercise.[1] A number of studies have demonstrated that intense resistance training can significantly decrease muscle glycogen stores, much more severely than previously suspected. [4-7] If you restrict your carbohydrate intake (as most bodybuilders do), you run a real risk of training constantly on carb-depleted muscles.

Weight training with low muscle glycogen levels means weak muscles [8] decreased force production, [9] and significantly reduced strength. [10] Muscle glycogen stores govern weight lifting performance, and the ability to train intensely day-in-day-out. [4-10] Glycogen-full muscles mean greater work capacity and greater intensity and this adds up to a more powerful growth stimulus.

Bodybuilders need carbohydrates to train intensely, build muscle, and get shredded. However, to obtain optimal muscle glycogen stores, a high carbohydrate diet is not required nor recommended. The answer is carbohydrate timing. The intake of the right carbohydrates at just the right time results in more effective muscle glycogen accumulation, better recovery, and a more potent muscle growth stimulus.

Carbohydrate timing: What is it? What are the advantages?

Many athletes don’t realize that the strategic consumption of carbohydrates just before and after intense training not only determines the success of today’s workout, but also the glycogen levels that fuel tomorrow’s workout. That’s right, restoring muscle glycogen for tomorrow’s workout starts before you hit the gym today!

The total amount of glycogen synthesized in muscle over a 24-hour period is directly correlated to the timing of carbohydrate ingestion after a workout.[2,3] If carbohydrates are not consumed in the immediate post-workout window, zero muscle glycogen synthesis [11] and an empty fuel tank for tomorrow’s workout is the result. Whereas a few strategic servings of an easily absorbed carbohydrate consumed close to training will guarantee a high glycogen synthesis rate [12,13] and glycogen-filled muscles to power cellular growth.

Don’t underestimate the importance of carbohydrate timing for triggering glycogen synthesis after a workout. Not only is an athlete’s total work capacity correlated directly to the amount of glucose/glycogen held within the muscle, but the process of glycogen accumulation also triggers an immediate “cell volumizing” effect, a potent anabolic (muscle-building) response. The right carbohydrate timing strategy will amplify the anabolic stimulus of resistance training.[1,3,20]

The research on carbohydrate intake and weight lifting shows that the consumption of a carbohydrate supplement just before (or during) an intense workout can save valuable muscle glycogen stores from complete depletion, as well as enhance total lifting capacity during the workout. [15,16] While training without using a carb supplement before weight training results in muscle carb depletion, and poor weight training performance [14], supplementing just before or during training, results in only a 13.7% decrease in muscle glycogen content and more weight lifted, for more reps in every working set![16-18]

A carbohydrate supplement consumed immediately before or after weight training is shown to directly affect the hormonal response. Taken before training, a carb supplement will maintain blood sugar levels and restore insulin levels. The presence of insulin is vital for stimulating muscle protein synthesis rates. [19] A carb supplement taken immediately after training increases insulin concentration while decreasing 3-methylhistidine and urea nitrogen excretion (all examples of reduced muscle breakdown).[20]

Consuming a carbohydrate supplement – DGC – after resistance training also enhances the growth hormone response and reduces circulating cortisol concentrations.[21,22] Cortisol is the number one glucocorticoid hormone that is responsible for muscle breakdown. Carb timing stops cortisol elevation dead in its tracks.

The benefits are as clear as night and day, and the strategy is remarkably simple. Be sure to consume a dose of carbohydrates just before and immediately after your Max-OT training session; it will enhance work capacity and the hormonal anabolic response from weight training.

Don’t forget creatine and glutamine . . .

GL3 L-GlutamineCarbohydrate synthesis is a cellular anabolic activator within the muscle. Recent research has shown that the supplements creatine and glutamine both act synergistically with glucose to maximize glycogen accumulation in muscle. [23, 24] When taken straight after training, a 7-10 gram dose of glutamine combined with carbohydrates, results in better glycogen accumulation throughout the entire body than either supplement taken alone.

Creatine-filled muscles store more carbohydrates, and that results in greater work capacity. So, to obtain optimal glycogen restoration after every workout, be sure to incorporate a 5-gram serving of Micronized Creatine in your pre and post-workout shake, and a 5-15 gram serving of GL3 L-Glutamine in your post-workout shake.

What kind of carbohydrates are best?

Micronized CreatineBowtell and colleagues have shown that glucose is the better choice of carbohydrate to consume around the training session. [26] Pure glucose does not require digestion, and it promotes more rapid restoration of muscle glycogen levels than other carbohydrates. When taken immediately after weight training, a dose of glucose (1 gram/kg body weight) was highly effective in preventing muscle breakdown and providing a more positive protein balance in a group of bodybuilders. [20] This strategic dose of glucose also helped to increase the glycogen content of the bodybuilder’s muscles to levels higher than seen before training.

How much?

Most of the research that has demonstrated positive effects from carb intake during weight training has used a dose of around 1 gram per kilogram of body weight within the immediate training period. Some research has followed this dose with another 1 hour after training and this completely restored muscle glycogen levels.[20]

Therefore, a 200-pound bodybuilder (approx 94kgs) should probably aim to consume a 45-gram dose of glucose before and after bodybuilding workouts, and, possibly, another dose an hour later. The effect of carbohydrate (glucose) consumption within the training period seems to exert such potent anabolic effects; I strongly suspect that most lean bodybuilders would obtain greater results from their training if they increased their carbohydrate intake during this period.

Remember, the carbs you consume during the workout period exert a direct anabolic effect, they go directly towards muscle recovery and growth. [27] This is where supplementing your diet with a product like DGC is so valuable.

See Also:
Warm-up Right for BIG Gains in Muscle and Strength

DGC - Fast Muscle Energy and HydrationDGC is a unique and incredibly effective supplement you can use to strategically increase your carbohydrate intake. One teaspoon provides 5-grams of dextrorotatory glucose, no digestion is required, and rapid absorption is assured. This makes DGC perfect for increasing carbohydrate intake at the precise times you need it. You can add DGC to your pre and post workout shakes to ensure you obtain the right amount of carbs, and ensure muscle glycogen stores are replenished.

VP2 Whey Isolate Strawberries & Cream - Best Whey ProteinAnother simple supplement timing strategy that you can employ that will send muscle protein synthesis rates through the roof is the timing of particular amino acids and glucose in the pre and post-workout period.

If an abundant supply of essential amino acids and glucose is in circulation during intense training, the anabolic response from weight training more than triples! [25] Imagine, triple the results every time you wrap your hands around a barbell. I believe this “timing phenomenon,” that is, making sure key nutrients are circulating to muscles during training, is the single most effective strategy a drug-free athlete can utilize to pack on lean muscle mass fast. Add a scoop of VP2 Whey Isolate to the mix before and after training to ignite this triple anabolic effect.


1. John L. Ivy, Harold W. Goforth Jr., Bruce M. Damon, Thomas R. McCauley, Edward C. Parsons, and Thomas B. Price. Early postexercise muscle glycogen recovery is enhanced with a carbohydrate-protein supplement. J. Appl. Physiol. 93 4, 1337-1344, 2002.
2. Bergström, J, Hermansen L, Hultman E, and Saltin B. Diet, muscle glycogen and physical performance. Acta Physiol Scand 71: 140-150, 1967
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Carbohydrate Timing – How to Time Your Carbohydrate Intake For Maximum Muscle-Growth and Fat Loss

by Paul Cribb Ph.D. CSCS. time to read: 10 min