While a popular belief is that carbs are the enemy, it’s just not the case, especially when it comes to heavy exercise.
Carbs before heavy exercise: Does it Help?
In fact, pre-workout carbs can help. If you’re looking to improve your athletic performance, they’re a potent ally.
Fat is not the only macro-nutrient used for fuel. Carbs are a primary source as well. Providing your body with proper carbohydrates will provide fuel through exercise, as well as aid in recovery and muscle gains. The body stores both fat and glycogen for fuel sources. Glycogen is stored in lower quantities. Low-to-moderate levels of exercise will utilize fat as fuel, but exercising at higher levels of intensity causes the body to shift its energy source from fat to glycogen. That’s one reason regularly including proper carbohydrates in your diet is an essential part of athletic training.
So yes - carbs before heavy exercise can help if it is a carb source that will provide proper energy levels versus a spike and later drop in energy.
The three main sources of carbohydrates are starches, sugars, and fiber. If you eat a lot of starches and sugars, you get the spike and drop in energy. If you eat more complex carbs that are mixed with some more starches or grains, you will get a more even energy expenditure.
When you eat carbs your body stores glycogen for energy use. When you exercise, your body uses these energy stores and the glycogen is pulled into the muscle to be used as fuel. If you are not getting high quality carbohydrates for fuel then your levels will be low. For an example, if you’ve gone on a long bike ride or a long run and suddenly lost your energy (or felt like you hit a wall), you’ve experienced what it feels like to have depleted your available glycogen stores.
A review by the American Dietetic Association, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine showed that consuming carbohydrates prior to and during exercise “has been shown unequivocally to extend endurance performance.”
How Many Carbs Do You Need Prior To Heavy Exercise?
The body can't store glycogen in large quantities. If you're consuming the proper calories within your daily nutrition, you could do about 90 minutes of hard effort on your glycogen stores. The nice thing is that your body can replenish this store fairly quickly and easily. Plus, as you get more fit, your body becomes more efficient at storing and utilizing glycogen.
So the real answer to 'Carbs Before Before Heavy Exercise: Does It Help?', is yes - if in the right amount. It varies based on the exercise that's being done. The recommendation is typically 30-60 grams per hour of exercise (up to two hours). Go beyond two hours, and you might need to up it 60-90 grams. It really comes down to the need for balance to provide the most efficient energy.
This may become a balancing act. It's about choosing high quality foods and/or supplements that provide real food carbohydrate sources (in the proper ratios) to keep the energy levels and recovery optimal for performance. So the suggestion is to eat balanced meals, but also supplement with high quality products that already have the balance created for you. One of the best nutritional supplement lines on the market is the Beachbody Performance Line. This line provides excellent support for heavy exercise routines - both before and after.
Here's the thing: if you are working out regularly, ignore the headlines suggesting that you need to go low-carb. Carbs before heavy exercise: Does it help? YES IT CAN - If you give your body the fuel it needs, keep a clean and portioned nutrition plan and use high quality supplements. You’ll feel better during your workouts and see better results!