Tag Archives: post-workout carbohyrdates

Pre- and Post-Workout Carbohydrates

16 Mar

high-carbohydrate-foods[1]Carbohydrates are important before your workout, to provide fuel for your exercise session; and after your workout, to replenish glycogen (the stored form of glucose) stores in your working muscles.

But, what are the best types of carbohydrates to consume before and after your workout?

The glycemic index (GI) is a way of measuring the body’s response to food.  A high GI food will cause a rapid and high elevation in blood glucose and a commensurate rise in blood levels of insulin.  Conversely, low GI foods will lead to a slower, more sustained blood glucose concentration.

Processed foods and foods with added sugar tend to have higher GIs; while less processed foods — including whole grain, high-fiber carbohydrates — usually have lower GIs.  Foods with carbohydrates that also have protein and/or fat also tend to have lower GIs, such as milk and dark chocolate.

Although the quality of your pre-workout meal or snack may not always significantly impact performance, studies lean toward a rationale for low GI carbohydrates before a workout, especially if the workout is longer in duration.

To accelerate restoration of glycogen stores following a workout, high GI carbohydrates may be a better choice.  High GI carbs are also appropriate between games of a double-header, or at half-time of a sporting event.

Here’s an informational article about the glycemic index that describes the differences and effects of high and low GI carbohydrates.


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Get Your Protein DURING Your Workout

5 Jul

chocolate-milk[1]There is plenty of evidence-based research supporting the importance of consuming whey protein (and carbohydrates) following a workout.  I have written and shared information about the ideal post-workout carb to protein ratio — about 3:1 — and that chocolate milk is a comparable substitute for ready-to-drink protein shakes, powders, and bars.

Several months ago, I read an article that suggested sipping your carb/protein replacement drink during your workout, so my daughter (a high school varsity basketball player) and I decided to try it.  We each begin our workout with an 18-20 oz. glass of chocolate milk (aim for 20-30 grams of protein, and 60-90 grams of carbs).  Every 10 minutes (or so), we drink some of the chocolate milk, saving the last few ounces for the end of our workout.  In effect, we’re putting the carbohydrates and protein to work — replenishing glycogen stores and repairing/rebuilding muscles — as we workout instead of waiting until the end of the session.

Although I realize eating and/or drinking during exercise isn’t for everyone, neither my daughter nor I have had any issues with tolerability.  Give it a try.


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The Importance of Post-Workout Carbohydrates

14 Dec

spaghetti[1]Most athletes know that post-workout protein is essential to the muscle recovery and repair process. As a strength and conditioning professional who works with hundreds of athletes, I can tell you that the importance of post-workout carbohydrate consumption is not necessarily as widely known or understood.

Post-workout carbs are also essential to your muscles’ recovery process. Ideally, you want to aim for 30-90 grams of carbs — depending on the intensity and duration of your workout — within about 30 minutes of training. This is when your muscles are most “receptive” to glycogen (see next paragraph). Within a few hours, your muscles are no longer able to recapture glycogen. Consuming carbohydrates after a workout not only “feeds” your muscles; it also prepares them for the next day’s workout, practice, or game.

Here’s how the process works: You already know that your body breaks carbs down into glucose, your primary energy source. Glycogen is the form of glucose that’s stored in your muscle tissue (some glucose is stored as fat). When you workout, you deplete muscle glycogen stores but you also effectively increase your muscle demand for glucose, meaning you need more (pre-workout) and have the ability to store more (post-workout). That’s why replenishing your muscles’ glycogen stores — via carbohydrate consumption — is an important part of your recovery process.

For best results, your post-workout carbs should be combined with protein. Research indicates the optimal carb-protein ratio to be 3:1 or 4:1, or approximately 20 to 25g protein per 80g carbs. Studies also show that carb-protein consumption, after a workout, increased glycogen reloading by 38 percent over carbs-only (Journal of Applied Physiology). Lowfat chocolate milk has this “magic” formula: a 3:1 carb-protein ratio and quality whey protein.

If you want to get your carbs from whole foods, what should you eat? Well, quality is important but any carb is better than no carb at all, given the importance of carbs to the post-workout recovery process. Fruits, including dried fruits, are good choices (think apples, oranges, bananas, raisins, and craisins). Whole grains — including bread, bagels, cereals, pasta, and rice — are nutritious and beneficial.


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