Simply put, carbohydrates have equal energy, which is why they are an essential part of a snack or pre-workout meal, along with plenty of fluids (ideally water). Consuming carbohydrates before engaging in strenuous exercise or high-intensity cardio workouts, such as cycling or running, ensures that your body has plenty of glucose available to nourish exercise without breaking muscle.
In a small study Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism, the researchers had active participants eat carbohydrates before exercise or a placebo 15 minutes before running on a treadmill for 5 minutes at 60% of maximum VO2 (maximum level of oxygen your body is able to use during exercise), 45 minutes to 70% of their VO2 max and then 80% of their VO2 max to exhaustion. The researchers compared the performance of participants in this endurance test and found that the time to exhaustion was about 13% longer among participants who had increased carbohydrates before exercise, showing improved endurance performance.
Moreover, a small study of 2018 in Limits on nutrition compared the effects of having a low-carb / low-protein snack versus a low-carb / high-protein snack 30 minutes before a high-intensity workout session among overweight women during menopause. The session included periods of walking or running uphill, alternating with recovery intervals, on a treadmill.
Results? Women in the carbohydrate group had a 22% increase in performance time compared to those in the protein group. The most interesting difference: Women who consumed more carbohydrates before exercise had a greater improvement in mood and positive feelings about exercise an hour later.
Some good pre-workout food choices in the carbohydrate-rich category include:
- A piece of fruit: A banana, an apple or a handful of grapes – the choice is yours. Fruits are easily digested and will provide the blood sugar boost you want before your workout, says Collingwood.
- A small granola bar: These bars usually contain oats, which are digested more slowly than many other sources of carbohydrates, as well as small amounts of energy-producing nutrients such as iron, potassium and magnesium.
- A slice of toast with jam or honey: These carbohydrate-concentrated combinations come down easily and provide a quick boost of energy, Bonci says.
- A handful of dried cereals: Choose the one that has the least sugar and not too high in fiber – such as Cheerios or Oatmears Squares – to give you a steady rise in blood sugar without the crash that sometimes follows.
Before a workout for strength training, rush with a combination of carbohydrates and a little protein, says Bonci. Carbohydrates are crucial to the energy you need to perform exercise, and protein helps you build muscle mass and strength, as well as repair the micro-tears that occur naturally in muscle fibers when you lift weights. Think of these macronutrients (carbohydrates and proteins) as the dynamic pair for building muscle strength.
Some good food combinations for any type of workout include:
- Chocolate milk: It offers the perfect triplets of carbohydrates, proteins and fluids to boost a strength workout, Bonci says.
- Greek yogurt with berries: The combination is rich in vitamins and minerals, as well as carbohydrates and proteins. It will provide a quick burst of energy (thanks to carbohydrates) and long-term energy (due to protein) while also protecting your muscles.
- A protein bar with carbohydrates: Make sure you have both macronutrients for optimal energy and muscle protection, says Bonci (many protein bars are low in carbohydrates).
- A piece of toast with walnut butter: Walnut butter is high enough in fat — though healthy fats — so stick with a thin layer of it on toast or a rice cake to get the right boost before exercise, Collingwood says.
It’s also important to consider the intensity and duration of the workout, as not all workouts are created equal. Nina Kolbe, a registered nutritionist and member of the Forbes Health Advisory Board, believes that most moderate-intensity exercise that does fast exercise (about 30 minutes) regularly in their days, should focus more on hydration. proper. But those who exercise for 30 to 60 minutes can benefit from a snack consisting mainly of carbohydrates.
“A banana, English muffin and a small granola bar are some good options,” Kolbe says.
Meanwhile, people who are exercising for 60 minutes to 90 minutes can benefit from a snack that is heavier in carbohydrates and lighter in protein and fat, Kolbe says. She recommends plain oatmeal made with low-fat milk, a bag of peanut butter or toast with a boiled egg.