Newsflash: insulin is the most anabolic hormone in the body. Anabolism is the process where smaller units are made into molecules. For our purposes in training, it means growth and recovery. You can not — repeat, NOT — get optimally strong without it.
When food is eaten, particularly carbohydrates, insulin will release to induce the cellular uptake of substances, particularly glucose (sugar) and amino acids (various effects on metabolism, but most importantly are building blocks of protein). The domino effect of insulin being released induces an anabolic state that is necessary for recovery. During training, muscles are damaged. The stress/adaptation process will not only repair the muscles, but repair them so that they have a higher threshold. The higher threshold culminates in increased strength (when on a proper program). Anabolism is an environment that is necessary for recovery to occur; if the body is wasting away in catabolism (the opposite of anabolism), it can’t help build the structures back up for recovery.
Neglecting carbohydrates dampens the anabolic effect of insulin. Since insulin is such a significant contributor to building the body, its volitional neglect is a decision that says, “I would prefer not to get big and strong right now.” And that’s just fucking weird, folks.
Carbohydrates aren’t the necessity for strength and muscular growth; protein and fat play significant roles in recovery. The point is that you need all three. Neglecting carbs has been a savvy thing to do lately. It’s a result of the demonizing on insulin. Well, guess what? If you aren’t lifting hard — training to get stronger and bigger muscles with compound movements like the squat, bench, press, and deadlift — then insulin is less critical. If you are sedentary or primarily do conditioning workouts — a training emphasis that induces adaptations in the cardiovascular/respiratory systems — then insulin probably should be avoided since it isn’t required for an environment of growth. Let me be clear: training only to get conditioned, by definition, isn’t stressing the body to grow and get stronger. However, someone who wants to get strong (with or without conditioning) will not only benefit from a growth environment, but will need it if they are going to be efficient with their time. It’s the intelligent thing to do.
I’m not suggesting you have giant carb meals to create an insulin response. People forget that exercise, particularly exercise that induces a state of growth (like lifting) will increase insulin sensitivity. Fish oil also increases insulin sensitivity, and most people that read this site are taking it. You won’t need crazy amounts of carbohydrates to induce a solid insulin response — unless you’re a Skinny-pain-in-the-ass-Guy. I do want to point out that “crazy amounts of carbs” is a relative thing since a lot of people are eating melons, berries, and pine tree bark as their daily carb source (it’s what Lucy ate, after all). Unless you’re a fat person — and you know if you’re fat or not — aim for a similar amount of carbs and protein. You should be eating significant protein compared to your sedentary friends (at least 1g of protein per pound of body weight, and guys need much more than that). Some research would indicate that it really doesn’t matter when you have that protein during the day, but you’ll feel better if eat it throughout the day. However many protein grams you’re eating, eat an equal amount of carbs. For the hard training lifter, that really won’t be a lot. But it is a fuck-ton more than what most of you are eating because you’ve been told carbs and insulin are evil like the Alice Cooper.
Of course you’ll be adding on plentiful amounts of fat along with that diet. Glenn Pendlay told our chat room last Tuesday that he considered fat (with plenty of cholesterol) to be more important than protein (his lifters are obviously getting significant protein — I’d assume well over 1g of protein per pound of body weight). It’s the Grandma Principle in action. The Grandma Principle states that you should eat meals that your grandma would have cooked; whole meals with legit foods like cooked dead animal, vegetables, and potatoes. For more on Granda, go HERE.
On a similar note, I Socratically asked Pendlay, “Do any of your lifters eat paleo?” I knew what the answer was, and he said something like, “Are you fucking serious?” to which I replied, “Fuck no, but that’s the point.” Nobody is going to get strong — and I mean fucking above average strong, not deadlifting 400 — by eating tree bark.
Insulin is the most anabolic hormone. By choosing not to utilize it throughout the day in at least two or three meals is a decision that says, “I don’t want to be as strong as I could be.” It’s analogous to wearing Vibram Fucking Five Fingers in the gym or choosing to squat with the bar on top of your head — it isn’t fucking optimal. And folks, people who make a blatant decision to not be strong give me the willies.