If you are active on TikTok, you might be aware of the trend where users snacked on Rice Krispies treats before going to the gym. The assurance: athletic performance boosts when loaded up on processed food and results in #fitnessgains, a trending hashtag associated with this trend on the social media platform.
The phenomenon, also known as carbohydrate (carb) timing or carb-loading, was quickly dismissed by fitness specialists. You get the idea if you’ve ever prepared a large dish of spaghetti before a long aerobic workout like a race (a strategy that predates the internet).
However, if you want to improve your fitness, the TikTok films may have sparked some fascinating issues. Is carbohydrate timing genuinely beneficial to your workout? Is there a good and wrong way to eat this macronutrient (the other two being protein and fat) if that’s the case?
Many sports medicine performance professionals say the answer is multifaceted and depends on the type of activity you do, how long you go, and how hard you push yourself. They also claim it depends on what else you ate and when you ate it concerning the start of your activity.
The doctor believes that carb-loading before a workout may make sense if you expect to exercise for more than 90 minutes or if you’re doing high-intensity workouts like interval training.
These are times when the body might burn through its stored carbs, and high-carbohydrate drinks or gels can help reduce weariness. Shorter, less intense exercises, on the other hand, are likely to have enough stored glucose to operate well without carbohydrate loading.
What are carbs? Why are they needed for exercise?
Carbohydrates, which include sugars, starches, and fiber, are macronutrients that are broken down in the digestive tract into glucose (blood sugar). Glucose then goes through the circulation and into cells, where it can be used for energy right away or stored as glycogen, a type of sugar that can be used for fuel in the future, in our muscles and liver.
Carbs give fuel for your exercises when you exercise.
If you exercise without first consuming carbs — because you probably don’t get enough of these macronutrients in your diet to build a large reserve of glycogen in your muscles — your body will instead break down protein in your muscles for fuel. Using these protein stores may cause you to become more fatigued and prone to dizziness during intense workouts.
What is carb mouth rinsing, and can it enhance your workout?
Early research reveals that you might not even need to eat carbs to increase your workout; you might only need to swirl them around in your mouth.
In research, seasoned cyclists who rinsed their mouths with a liquid solution containing 6.4 percent carbohydrates for five seconds before cycling at their preferred pace completed the distance, had a higher cycling output, and reported a better workout than cyclists who consumed a similar tasting placebo. However, because the study was limited (only 16 men participated), more research is needed.
A study of 11 further pieces of research on carb rinsing found that it may assist boost cycling power in some situations, albeit these trials were also small, and the bulk of the participants were men. The reason carb rinsing may assist, according to researchers, is because the macronutrient activates mouth and then brain reward receptors, alerting your body that more energy is on the way. The effects of carb rinsing may be stronger when carb reserves are low in the body, making oral receptors more sensitive.
How to build workout-enhancing food?
Meals and snacks that include carbohydrates and protein are ideal for athletic performance. Protein helps muscles rebuild and repair in reaction to a hard workout, whether taken before or after your sweat session, while carbs provide the energy you’ll need to perform at your best.
Pre-exercise foods to consume one to four hours before a workout include:
- A PBJ (peanut butter and banana) sandwich
- berries and Greek yogurt
- Oatmeal with fruit and low-fat milk
- Apple and nut butter (peanut or almond)
- Nuts and raisins in a handful (two parts raisins, one part nuts)
These refreshments after an exercise, ideally within an hour of concluding longer or more severe sessions:
- Smoothie with fruit and low-fat milk
- Chocolate milk with less fat
- Veggies with turkey on a whole-grain wrap
- Yogurt with berries in a low-fat version
While the researchers do not specify a specific carbohydrate-to-protein ratio for pre-and post-workout snacks, the American Academy of Exercise advises roughly 3 g of carbs for pre-workout snacks.
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