The role of carbohydrates before, during, and after exercise

The role of carbohydrates before, during, and after exercise

Are you striving to get the most out of your workouts? In that case, a good strategy is to know how to manage carbohydrate sources in the pre-training period, that is, before, during and / or after training or physical or sports activity and mark the best strategy that suits your needs and objectives

Our body uses fat 24 hours a day

In all the actions carried out in your day to day and to support internal functions such as organs (heart, respiratory system …) your body uses energy from fats .

Basically, our metabolic rate is generally found in a normalized zone, which is only altered in situations described as stress , that is, producing an unusual energy demand, such as a training .

Consumption of carbohydrates

For low intensity activities we “work” with fat

Other times when the body does not use fat is after meals, due to the effect of insulin (this hormone is antagonistic to lipolysis, and while it is elevated, fat loss does not occur)

Perhaps, the strategy to enter carbohydrates in the Permaining , controversial for some , but we must not forget, that we are implementing a strategy to maximize performance, and that the rest of the 24 hours a day, it is when we will spend about adjusting our diet and improving habits (increase NEAT …)

Carbohydrates, Fuel for our Muscles

Activities that involve a certain effort, both to increase intensity, duration, and muscle contraction, this source of energy is preferred by active muscles,; and as it is provided by carbohydrates, it is very easy to deduce that in order to have optimal performance of the muscles, we must carry out a diet rich in carbohydrates .

However, it is necessary to take into account the metabolization process of these to get the most out of physical activity and exercise

Carbohydrates and high intensity exercise

Generally speaking, when we do a workout , the energy substrate from which the muscle tissues feed is glucose .

Muscle tissue will burn or use glucose as a priority as long as it is available in the blood, and as it is used, the body will break down glycogen (stored in the liver and muscles) for more energy that allows the muscular effort to go on.

Only when effort is of very little intensity , such as walking, will the body resort to a slow-producing oxidative energy pathway (fat), and will preserve the glycogen that allows it to respond to larger efforts.

On the other hand, an explosive jump, or lifts of less than 2-3 reps, would use ATP

Long time exercise

For this you have to “change up” and play around with with the type of carbohydrate in the diet depending on the duration of effort to be carried out, whether it’s training or competition

Having said that, it is obvious that having significant reserves of glycogen is a guarantee of muscular vigor , but the use of glycogen requires a certain time to be produced and is not a immediate process, so you have to program the feeding for this purpose

Why should we consume Carbohydrates to train?

The foundation for introducing this nutrient into our training or physical activity caters to a number of reasons that seek to improve our performance. Therefore, if you need to obtain the following benefits, you know you have them at your fingertips with our products.

High Intensity Workouts

As we have already mentioned, in workouts that exceed a certain intensity the glycolytic energy substrate is the most common. The goal will be to quickly provide the necessary ATP that allows muscle contraction at the rate that determines the intensity of physical effort being carried out.

Substrates energy

How do energy substrates work?

Any effort that requires muscle contraction or strength is involved the energy molecule adenosine triphosphate (ATP) , so that while we are executing the action, an energy exchange process is taking place, needing continuous resynthesis of ATP for energy demand.

The 3 energy pathways through which this is produced are:

  • Phosphagen System , activities with the highest intensity possible for the shortest duration (power or explosiveness). Example: Vertical Jump, Weightlifting, 100m race …
  • Glycolytic System , activities of medium to high intensity, and of short duration. Example: CrossFit pod, 400mts race …
  • Oxidative System , the least efficient of all, considered for low intensity / long duration activities. Example: walking, cycling at a gentle pace …
The glycolytic system is based on glucose, from the glycogen stored in our body or externally at any given time (gel or sports drink), and it is therefore necessary to maintain a correct supply of the diet to cope with such important energy demands and above all, maintain the intensity of the effort throughout the entire course of the session or workout

Accelerate Recovery Between Series

We are sure that you’ve experienced the sensation that your performance is diminishing after 30-45 minutes of intense training. This, in part, is due both to exercise-induced muscle fatigue itself, and due to glycogen stores running out.

When our body detects this lack of supply, it sets in motion a mechanism to prevent any further losses of energy, sending a signal from the brain


All this can translate into poorer performance, which will inevitably get worse over time

A strategy to maintain excellent development during training , if your workout routine falls into the the high intensity category, is to maintain a continuous supply of carbohydrates, so that we make up for this lack of performance, and which we should take or drink in between training .

Another important point: introduce minerals to allow optimal muscle contraction, is another tool to count on, and to be able to see improved performance

Improve Recovery Between Workouts

Recovery can be a whole process that involves not just one occasion , but a full day or even successive days .

Obviously, this will be related to the total weekly training volume, that is, the number of times we train

Carbs to speed up recovery

There are those who train not once, but up to 2 or even 3 times a day, where this recovery work becomes quite important, almost critical, if that scheme is repeated more than once a week

However, we can promote recovery, even if we train overnight, and find ourselves to the maximum of our conditions, under the energy plane

Reduce muscle breakdown

Raising insulin maintains a number of other properties, such as lowering cortisol . This hormone (contrary to insulin, growth hormone and testosterone) tends to be released maintaining a pattern, being elevated during the beginning of the day, and decreasing as it progresses.

In cases of physical stress, it is also released, and the problem lies in maintaining a high frequency of exercise, or prolonged duration, such as is the case of those who practice resistive sports activities, and therefore, find that their cortisol is elevated for longer.


The most experienced athletes have the greatest ability to withstand this situation.

Simple and Complex Carbohydrates

First of all, it’s important to go over this concept as it’s very relevant for those of us who train. The molecular structure of the carbohydrate determines the time required for that energy to be made available in the body for us to then use during our exercises.

In this case, there are two types: simple and complex carbohydrates

  • Broadly speaking, a complex carbohydrate will be one made up of several glucose units, or chains of glucose units, so that when they reach our stomach, they can break down and obtain energy glucose, which then passes into the bloodstream and be able to make use of such energy.
  • The simple carbohydrates , the mono or disaccharides, are those that do not require digestion and their glucose molecules quickly reach the blood (they are directly glucose) .
However, this type of carbohydrate can cause a sudden rise in blood sugar and cause a considerable release of insulin, which, in turn, will produce a rebound effect, reducing blood glucose and thereby causing a marked drop in glucose. and energy .
With this, we have to make the consideration of seeing in what proportion they raise the concentration of glucose in the blood, by means of the knowledge of the Glycemic Index or GI. Thus, the High GI carbohydrates will be those that are associated with the Simple, and on the contrary it happens with the Complexes

When should we take high glycemic carbohydrates?

Therefore, the intake of this type of carbohydrate is reserved only for episodes of intense and brief exertion or after training or competition , when the body’s glycogen reserves are practically depleted and the body needs glucose to replenish those deposits quickly.

Cycling gel

However, take a type of simple carbohydrate or ready to drink , like gels, just before starting physical effort or during, can be a plus in our performance </ em >

Carbohydrates Before Training

We are going to take a look at two different scenarios:

  1. Training immediately after getting up, or if you had your last meal more than 3-4h ago
  2. Training after eating a meal

The most recommended approach nutritionally speaking, before doing an intense workout, would be to have a meal with complex type carbohydrates , moderate in its amount of protein, and although it may be low in fat, it would be a good idea to include some form of fat, taking into account the benefits this can provide, such as the Coconut Oil.

We should give our body time to digest this meal as best as it possibly can, maximizing gastric emptying and helping more nutrients to become available. In such a case, opting for a shake composed of the 3 macronutrients, to be taken 90-120min prior to training, would be a wise option:

Example Pre-Workout Food


Another excellent option will be to opt for one of the delicious Recipes for Oatmeal Pancakes that we have on the blog
If, on the contrary, either as a result of time constraints, or because you feel better doing it that way, we do our workout just after getting up, or at least having spent a considerable time since the last meal, we can opt to take within 30min before training:


Carbohydrates During Training

In short sessions it is better to limit yourself to water to obtain the best state of hydration possible and not to alter energy and biological processes. In environments with adverse weather, it’s recommended that you take electrolytes, and make a Type of Sports Drink however you’d prefer.

Paddle surf crossfit

The duration of the session is very important when deciding the type of carbohydrate to be used during the workout. It’s important to remember that glucose is faster, followed by fructose and then maltodextrins

However, if the workout lasts for more than 1 hour, or if it is a fairly demanding activity (Athletics series, CrossFit), then the ideal may be to incorporate a Intra-Training , that is, an energy booster that supports us throughout the training.

The nutritional support that we choose to take during a physical activity or workout should be easy to absorb, and not produce any stomach upsets

We have several options that you could use to fulfill this role, and the one that you choose is up to you. It would be a good idea to make this decision based on the result this option gives you during your routine. Our ideal products are :

Option 1:
Option 2:

Carbohydrates After Training

After your workout , once training is over, the organism goes through a period of accelerated supercompensation, in which it tries to increase all the processes for the recovery of lost energy (it is estimated that within the first two hours after finishing exercise, the body doubles the speed of glycolysis).

At this time, the ideal is to provide High Glycemic Index carbohydrates that accelerate glycogen replacement.

Once again, we can make use of several options:

Option 1:
Option 2:
  • 25g Cyclodextrins
  • 25g Amylopectin

Here you can add a fast assimilation protein to improve the recovery effect. The mix should always be in 2:1 ratio, with the greater portion made up of carbohydrates.

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About Javier Colomer
Javier Colomer
"Knowledge Makes Stronger", Javier Colomer's motto, sets out his clearest statement of intentions expressing his knowledge and fitness experience.
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