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Do you need intra workout carbs?

Will intra workout carbs boost your fitness routine?

Caucasian muscular man using pull down machine in the gym, weight lifting workout.

Nutrition is one of the most important components to accompany your workout plan — regardless of your fitness goals. Yet, there are many different nutritional approaches to try, which can make it challenging to know the best plan for you. Some athletes try intra workout carbs to help fuel their workouts, helping to replenish muscle glycogen for energy. But are intra workout carbs the best strategy for everyone? Should you give it a whirl? Let’s dive into this fitness trend and who should consider giving it a try.

What are intra workout carbs?

Man drinking protein shake
Karolina Grabowska / Pexels

Intra workout carbs refer to carbohydrates that are consumed during a workout. Most often, these carbs are consumed in the form of a powdered shake or other drink that can easily be consumed during the workout. Carbs are a source of fuel for the body and are depleted during strenuous workouts. Not only do intra workout carbs provide energy, but they can also help reduce mental fatigue and provide a continuous fuel source for your brain to function throughout your workout.

Who should try intra workout carbs

Male athlete drinking protein shake while sitting in gym.
Westend61 / Adobe Stock

The research suggests that intra workout carbs are beneficial for endurance athletes. Endurance athletes who exercise for more than 90 minutes at a time will deplete their glycogen stores at this point, which can then impact their performance. In these scenarios, consuming intra workout carbs can help provide the body with energy.

Consuming carbs during the workout is usually unnecessary for athletes who exercise between 60 and 90 minutes. Most recreational athletes do not need to worry about Eating healthy carbs as a pre-workout or post-workout is enough to replenish your muscles. As you consider which types of carbs to eat pre and post-workout, remember that the quality of the carbs is important. Healthy carbs from real food sources, such as whole grains, should be prioritized while processed carbohydrates should be avoided.

What should you eat before or after a workout?

Sweet potato chunks.
Nathan Dumlao / Unsplash

Consuming carbs about 30 minutes to 1 hour before your workout can help provide a fast boost of energy to fuel your workout. Choose quick-digesting or simple carbs, which can be broken down for immediate energy by your body. Prior to a workout, simple carbs in moderate amounts such as fruit can provide the fast energy you need.

If you’re not consuming intra workout carbs, consuming complex carbs within two to three hours after your workout can help replenish lost glycogen stores. Post-workout meals should contain a healthy balance of protein, carbs, and fats. Some examples of complex carbs to consume after a workout include sweet potato, rice, or quinoa. The total number of carbs you should consume daily will depend on your personalized macronutrient requirements as well as your fitness goal (gain muscle, lose weight, etc).

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Emily Caldwell
Emily is a freelance writer with a special focus on health, fitness, lifestyle, food, and nutrition topics. She holds a B.S…
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