Why You Shouldn't Eat Carbs Before Every Workout

Contrary to common belief, you don't need to carb up before every workout. Get-Fit Guy explains what new research says about the connection between not eating carbohydrates before a tough workout and your overall fitness. 

Ben Greenfield,
July 11, 2014

Don't eat carbs before every workout Although it seems like there's a Jamba Juice or smoothie bar at the exit of every gym, and while ads for Powerbar and Gatorade plaster exercise magazines and sporting events, there’s actually a distinct performance-enhancing benefit to not eating carbs before every workout.

A recent article in the European Journal of Sport Science highlights exactly why I will often go into a long workout with no carbohydrates at all; sometimes I'll dive into my routine on just some amino acids or a little bit of coconut oil. The article, "Carbohydrate availability and exercise training adaptation: Too much of a good thing?," highlights data from laboratories around the world that have clearly demonstrated that deliberately training in conditions of reduced carbohydrate availability can actually promote training-induced adaptations in muscle that increase your fitness, including:

  • increased maximal mitochondrial enzyme activities for better utilization of oxygen and better endurance,
  • increased rates of fat oxidation,
  • and improved exercise capacity.

The takeaway message is that you should practice 'train-low' workouts at various points during the week. For example, today I skipped lunch and went for a run about two hours after when I normally would have eaten lunch. It was mentally “tough” and you certainly wouldn’t want to stress your body by overdoing sessions like this, but every once in a while you should send a signal to your body that it can exercise--even if a bunch of sugar isn’t available! When you do this, your body will bounce back with better improvements in fitness and fat burning.

Do you have more questions about when to eat carbs? Leave your thoughts over at Facebook.com/GetFitGuy.

Fruit smoothie image courtesy of Shutterstock

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