Carbs for Training

You’ve undoubtedly heard about the importance of carbs for our health, well-being, energy levels, and athletic performance. 


But what does all of this mean in a practical sense? For example, what should you do if you train consistently and want to optimize your training performance?


There are various ways to approach your carb consumption. Some ideas are simpler and more practical, while others add a layer of unnecessary complexity to the equation.


Without further ado, let’s go over carb timing and intake for effective training.


What Are Carbs And What Benefits Do They Offer?


Carbs are three types of saccharides that serve as the primary source of energy for the body (1, 2). Depending on the source, a carb can be complex or simple. Complex carbs digest more slowly and cause a more gradual rise in insulin levels (3). They are also less likely to cause a subsequent sugar crash. 


Simple carbs digest more quickly, thanks to their simple structure. As a result, they provide energy more rapidly and cause a more significant insulin spike (3). The issue is, simple carbs can sometimes lead to a sugar crash, which is characterized by:

  • Low mood
  • Lethargy
  • Brain fog
  • Sleepiness


How to Optimize Your Carb Intake For Best Results


Like protein, you need a two-fold approach with your carb intake. 


First, you have to consume enough carbs every day. Doing so will provide your body with the energy it needs to recover from training, carry out its many nuanced processes, and perform great at the gym. 


General recommendations suggest consuming between five and seven grams of carbs per kilogram of weight (4). For example, if you weigh 80 kilograms, this would mean a daily intake of 400 to 560 grams daily. Start on the low and track your performance. You can gradually increase your carb intake until you start gaining weight if you want to build muscle. 


Second, you should pay attention to your carb timing. Luckily for all of us, timing our carbs is far less complicated than some people suggest. So long as we get several carb doses each day, we should have enough energy to carry out daily tasks and perform optimally in the gym. 


Aside from consuming carbs every few hours, paying close attention to your pre- and post-training carb intake is also beneficial. Having carbs an hour or two before working out is a nice way to ensure that you have adequate energy to perform well (5). Other factors also play a role in how well you can perform, but this is one that you can control. 


Post-training carbs are vital because they kickstart the recovery process by replenishing lost glycogen. Research suggests that glycogen levels play an important role in muscle protein synthesis, so carbs are important (6).


Good Carb Sources to Consider


Fruits, vegetables, brown rice, oats, popcorn, whole-wheat pasta, barley, potatoes, lentils, beans, and quinoa are among the many healthy carbs you should include in your diet.


Aside from that, the occasional treat (ice cream, candy bar, cookies, etc.) won’t be the end of the world. Some degree of dietary flexibility will help you stay on track and avoid feeling overly deprived. 


A good carb blend product can also help a lot. These products taste well, don’t sit heavy in your stomach, and provide your body with many beneficial nutrients it needs throughout the day.