Carbohydrates: The best pre-workout fuel

Honey & Toast
Raisin Oatmeal
Jelly Bagel

Carbohydrates: The best pre-workout fuel.


            When you workout do you feel sluggish or fatigued shortly after you begin? Have you ever felt like you were just lacking the energy to power through your exercises? Well maybe you’re not eating the right foods. There are certain foods that can provide energy for your workout if eaten at the proper time. If the body does not have a sufficient energy source, you could experience fatigue, low blood sugar, or light headedness. On the other hand, exercising with too much on your stomach can lead to stomach cramps or that bloated, sluggish feeling. This is why taking in the proper nutrients before a workout can be so important.

            Carbohydrates are your best friend when it comes to having a great workout. They are the body’s main source of energy when performing intense activities. Carbohydrates are separated into two categories. They are called simple carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates and the body metabolizes each type differently. Simple carbohydrates are also known as simple sugars and are absorbed by the body very quickly. This is because simple sugars serve as the basic unit of all carbohydrate and are composed of only one or two sugar units. Table sugars, honey, maple syrup, and fructose (sugar in fruit) are examples of some simple carbohydrates.  There are a few things that you need to know about most simple carbohydrates. They carry no nutritional value, they can make you feel hungrier when consumed alone, and they can cause a rise in blood sugar levels. A quick rise in blood sugar levels causes the release of insulin which can lead to that tired, sluggish feeling known as “sugar crash”. Complex carbohydrates get their name from the complexity of their chemical structure. Complex carbohydrates are formed by hundreds of thousands of sugar units bonded together. This causes the body to slowly digest and metabolize complex carbohydrates which gives the body a longer lasting energy source. They also can make you feel fuller for a longer period of time. Complex carbohydrates are mainly found in grains, fruits (fruit contains both simple and complex carbs), and vegetables.

            So how can you apply this knowledge to benefit your workout? We know that carbohydrates are the body’s main source of fuel during intense exercising. We know that there are simple carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates. We know that simple carbs deliver energy fast because they are absorbed quickly, but they can make you feel sluggish. We also know that complex carbs digest slowly and are a longer lasting source of fuel. Being that complex carbs are slowly digested by the body, they need to be consumed well before a workout to be effective. So which type of carbohydrate is best to eat before a workout? The answer is both! A combination of simple carbs and complex carbs delivers the perfect energy source to fuel you through an intense workout. Being that simple carbs burn fast while complex carbs burn slow and steady, the combination of the two approximately 30-45 minutes before a workout will have you pumping some serious iron. Plus when you combine simple and complex carbs, you don’t receive that rapid insulin release like you would with a simple carbs alone- that means no sugar crash.

            Before your next workout try a snack that combines simple carbohydrates with complex carbohydrates. I personally love to have a piece of fruit before my workouts – bananas in particular. They’re packed with simple and complex carbs making them easily digested. Other combinations like whole wheat toast with a drizzle of honey or a ½ cup of cinnamon raisin oatmeal also works well. Come up with your own combinations. Before you know it, you’ll have a power pre-workout snack to fuel you to the end of your workout and beyond.


Chris Batten TheExercisePRO