One of the myths for workout diets is that you should not eat carbohydrates and proteins in the same meal. This type of diet is known as a split meals (food combining diet). For example, according to supporters of this regime foods such as potatoes and meat shouldn’t be combined. Their arguments are that:
Proteins are degraded to amino acids in the acidic environment of pepsin (a digestive enzyme) and hydrochloric acid (HCl), while carbohydrates are digested in an alkaline environment. Therefore, when consumed together, these products can’t be broken down effectively, leading to incomplete absorption of nutrients and gastrointestinal disorders. Another argument is that their combination weakens the immune system and in the long run leads to many diseases.
Based on my experience and many books read behind me, I would like to share my opinion on the matter:
1. To gain muscle mass, you need to be in an anabolic (construction) state most of the time. To obtain the protein that you need for muscle recovery and maintain certain functions you must consume protein regularly during the day and in small portions. When you eat separately and one or more of your meals are entirely carbohydrate, the body will reach for muscle tissue to get the necessary amino acids. The reason is that we can’t store amino acids like we store carbohydrates as glycogen and fat in fat stores. And as we all know, the more muscle mass you have, the higher will be the base metabolic rate and the more calories you burn at rest. When you start burning muscle, better think about whether this is the right approach!
2. In order for protein (amino acids) to reach the muscle cells, insulin is required. Insulin is secreted primarily in response to a carbohydrate meal. So, when you combine carbohydrates with protein, you help the insertion of the amino acids in muscle cells. This is particularly important in post workout meals, and generally burning fat and gaining muscle mass.
3. If you eat mostly carbohydrates (especially those with a high glycemic index), you are rapidly rising your blood sugar. The peaks in blood sugar followed by a sharp decline - also known as hypoglycemia, result in repeated hunger and fatigue and tiredness. If you recognize yourself in this situation, you probably overuse sugar and refined carbohydrates. Instead, consume carbohydrates in their natural form as nature created them (fruits, vegetables, whole grains instead of flour, etc.) and combine them with lean protein.
4. When you include protein in each meal, delaying the digestion of carbohydrates, this results in a stable blood sugar, without the sharp peaks and troughs of, and higher levels of energy as well as moderate insulin secretion.
5. It has been proven that intake of protein at every meal reduces appetite, which leads to easier control over what and how much you eat.
6. Muscle glycogen is the main energy source in strength training with weights, but glycogen in the muscles is limited (about 400 grams or 1600 kcal) and must be continually restored. If glycogen deposits are chronically exhausted, performance and recovery will suffer. Advocates of low-carbohydrate diets claim that your body can learn to work on fats and proteins. However, if you ask professionals, including me, will you answer that low-carbohydrate diet makes me feel exhausted and famished.
7. The combination of fibrous carbohydrates (leafy and other vegetables), which are rich in fiber and protein, leads to slowing digestion, thus stabilizing the levels of insulin.
8. The intake of protein also create the so called thermic effect, in which about 1/4 of the calories of protein foods are burned for its digestion and assimilation.