Carbs For Training: Before, During, and Post Workout

Last Updated on May 21, 2020

Supplying a High-Quality Carbohydrate Energy Source Before, During, and Post Workout Improves Performance & Recovery

What Are Carbs?

They’re one of three types of food that give your body energy. The other two are proteins and fats. Together, they provide the fuel your body uses to build and repair itself.

Because carbs are a source of energy, they can keep you going strong while you exercise.

Don’t Be Afraid of The Carbs!

One of the common reasons people avoid carbs is that they’ve bought into the hype that carbs make you fat. In fact, carbohydrates are not the enemy. They’re quite the opposite.

Carbohydrates are the most effective and readily available workout fuel you can take. Properly supplemented, they provide a highly stable and reliable energy source for optimal performance.

Your body has 3 possible sources for energy – glycogen stored in muscles, blood sugar and fat. When your body runs out of glycogen, it will look for the glycogen in blood sugar. If that’s depleted and not restored, then it will try to burn fat. Fat burns much slower than glycogen and as a result you will have to slow down as your body waits for this energy conversion. Dramatic drops in performance occurs as the supply of energy can’t keep up with your demands. You must constantly replenish blood sugar by supplementing with carbohydrates to maintain performance!

Eat the Right Carbohydrates – Complex Carbs

Simple sugars are very sweet and are slow to leave the stomach, resulting in gastrointestinal distress and stomach discomfort. In addition, simple sugars don't need to be broken down any further so they hit the blood stream all at once, providing a single rapid spike in glucose for a quick hit of fuel followed by an equally rapid crash!

Complex Carbs, on the other hand, has to break down into simple carbohydrates and then into glucose before the body can use them. This takes longer, which means your blood sugar goes up more slowly and they’re less likely to be changed into fat. These kinds of carbs include multigrain breads and pasta, beans, potatoes, and other vegetables.

Why Supplement With Carbs?

Faster Recovery

Most athletes understand the importance of protein for recovery and carbohydrates are just as important for recovery!

The athlete’s body has one primary goal in mind after each workout and that is to replace glycogen storage. Consuming carbohydrates during and post workout increases plasma glucose and insulin concentration, and makes it possible for the body to resynthesize glycogen at a higher rate.

During intense exercise, your muscles use glucose and glycogen for energy. There is a point at which blood glucose levels (available energy) and glycogen levels (stored energy) get so low that intense exercise can’t continue. There just isn’t enough available energy for your muscles to use so your body secrets cortisol – this is your body’s “stress” hormone and it has very catabolic effects. What cortisol does is eat up muscle tissue for protein and convert it into glucose. The net result is a loss of muscle tissue.

If you don’t have enough carbohydrates post workout, your body will crave them all day. Your body is programmed so that if you don’t eat enough of something, it will demand it. Eating more carbohydrates as part of the recovery meal will serve three purposes:

1) replacing glycogen storage, 2) providing essential nutrients to the athlete’s body, and 3) making the athlete faster/stronger over time.

Lean Bulking (Muscle building)

When it comes to muscle growth, carbs are vital for numerous reasons, one of them being because of the role they play in insulin levels. Insulin levels will help determine your body’s ability to “soak up” nutrients it needs to build muscle. If the body is low on insulin, the amino acids are stolen and turned into glucose. You do not want certain hormones (catabolic) to steal your gains in the gym!

Studies have showed that by having carbs before, during, and post workout significantly boosts muscle gain potential.

Cutting (Fat Loss)

Just because you’re dieting doesn’t mean you need to completely eliminate carbohydrates from your diet. While you might not be able to eat as many carbs as you gain during maintenance or muscle gain phases, it’s still important to consume some carbohydrates, especially around your workout as they will help you push harder in your workouts (thereby burning more calories) and help protect against muscle breakdown due to the fact that carbohydrates are muscle sparing.

So, next time you workout, do not forget the carbs. They are as important as anything else when it comes to nutrition and getting good, muscular gains.


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