Should you eat Carbs before or after you work out?


Should you eat Carbs before or after you work out?

There are multiple schools of thought for this question with each one seeming as true as the other. You may have heard someone say, “You should eat carbs before working out because carbs give you energy” or “You should eat carbs after you work out because to replenish your glycogen stores.” Who is right? What does the science say?

Should you eat carbs before you train?
This would make sense since carbs could give you more energy to push yourself harder. However, the literature is mixed with papers suggesting a mild benefit or no benefit. In fact, it is not about consuming carbs that determines a good workout, it is whether you have had all your usual meals before working out. Missing a meal, you are used to having can result in fatigue in the gym. Furthermore, if you consume carbs too close to your workout you might feel full, and this could hinder your workout. You might also have a reactive hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar) during your workout.

Should you eat carbs after you train?
This might also make sense because you would have depleted glycogen during training. The issue with this statement is that it is very difficult to become glycogen depleted during training. Even if you were to train at incredibly high volumes, you would only deplete 40% of your glycogen stores in your muscles. Furthermore, you will rest those muscle groups and during rest glycogen will be restored, even on a low to moderate carbohydrate diet. This also means that having a low GI carb post-workout is pointless because full glycogen replenishment will occur no matter what type of carbohydrate you consume.


Another argument made in favour of eating carbs after working out is the insulin spike it creates which aids in anabolism. However, consuming protein after working out causes the exact same insulin spike. Majority of studies looking into this show no difference in strength or muscle gains whether protein or carbohydrates are consumed after working out or some other time in the day.

However, there was a study conducted in individuals who were dieting. In one group, 28 grams of carbs were consumed before and after working out and in the other 28 grams of protein were consumed before and after working out. It was found that the carbohydrate group had significantly greater muscular endurance than the protein group. A limitation to this study is it was not clear whether the group consuming carbohydrates had consumed 58 grams more than the other group on the training days and that this was perhaps the reason for their improvement.

Therefore, the literature is not convincing for either pre or post workout carbohydrate consumption. Neither make a significant difference. The regularity of your meals in relation to training are of more importance unless you are dieting.


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