Should You Increase Your Carb Intake During Training?

14th February 2020
Increasing your carbohydrate intake during training is an optimal way to boost your performance. This is especially true if you’re doing a longer workout. Want to know more? Check out today’s article.

Although many people avoid carbs while following a workout routine, this isn’t as effective as we previously thought. In fact, increasing your carb intake during training can improve your performance!

There are studies that recommend boosting your carbohydrate intake during training to maximize efficiency. This strategy is particularly beneficial in the case of long workouts, such as resistance training. In this way, we can introduce nutrients in the form of simple sugars that quickly pass into the bloodstream and are available for use.

Carb intake during training: strength training

Strength or short-term workouts usually don’t require a boosted sugar intake during the active period. In this type of training, the limiting factor is usually muscle phosphocreatine deposits and the efficiency of the metabolic path of the Cori cycle.

Through this last system, the lactic acid produced during exercise turns into glucose available for your body to use. As such, you’re ensuring the availability of fuel for optimal fitness performance.

Because of this, it’s good to supplement your strength training with creatine. Other buffers are also good, such as beta-alanine. This supplementation is more important than boosting your carb consumption within the session.

Sugary drinks in resistance training

However, when we talk about long-term resistance training, your nutritional needs may vary. In this type of effort, your body prioritizes fat and free amino acids as the main energy source.

By introducing extra carbs, you can reduce your body’s tendency to use fats for a small period. Thus, you’ll be improving your workout efficiency. In addition, this boosts your blood sugar levels, which in turn can help give you more energy during your weight training session.

Carbohydrate intake may be optimal for cycling training.

On the other hand, adding more carbs before and during your workout will help your body save muscle, making you have more energy to perform at a higher intensity for a longer time.

What kind of sugar should I add during my workout?

The best way to add carbs during your training session is through a sugar-rich drink. The number of sugars shouldn’t exceed 6-8 percent, to avoid stomach upsets.

In addition, it’s good to limit the amount of fructose and choose carbs that your body assimilates quickly, such as dextrose. There are excellent commercial preparations to replenish carbohydrates that also have mineral salts in their composition. In this way, you can prevent possible dehydration or muscle cramps due to mineral loss.

It’s important that these liquids are fresh or cold. Fresh drinks are absorbed faster than hot drinks, which helps to avoid the likelihood of stomach aches.

Researchers discovered that even “rinsing your mouth” with sugary drinks improves performance, especially in cycling.

Benefits of carbs after your workout

Having a higher carb intake during training can delay the onset of fatigue. Furthermore, after the session itself, you can also take advantage of these healing properties. When you have carbs after your workout, they’ll fill your liver and muscles with glycogen stores.

In addition, carbs should be paired with highly available proteins. In this way, the mTor anabolic pathway is stimulated, and with it, you’re boosting protein synthesis and tissue repair.

The stimulation of this metabolic pathway has the ability to slow down its opposite, AMPK. This has a catabolic character and causes tissue to break down in order to create energy.

Carbohydrates are an essential energy source for children and adolescents.

Just after training, it’s good to have a serving of simple carbs. A few hours later, you should have another portion, this time with a low glycemic index.

This technique ensures your body replaces glycogen deposits and you lower your risk of injury in subsequent training sessions.

Carb intake during training: closing thoughts

Endurance athletes can really benefit from adding more carbs during training. This strategy allows you to delay the onset of fatigue and preserves muscle and liver glycogen.

The best option to take carbs at this time is through sweetened drinks with a carbohydrate content of 6-8 percent.

However, if you want to work on strength or anaerobic training you don’t need to boost your carb intake. Instead, supplement with creatine.

Finally, to shorten your recovery period, have a small carb serving after your workout. This will make it easier to resume your routine the following day.

  1. Dragusin IB., Horswill CA., Does sport-drink use during exercise promote an acute positive energy balance?. Int J Sport Exerc Metab, 2016. 26 (5): 428-434.
  2. Baltazar-Martins G., Del Coso J., Carbohydrate mouth rinse decreases time to complete a simulated cycling time trial. Front Nutr, 2019.