Have you ever hit a wall in the middle of training? Yep, been there, done that. And before I knew any better, I thought it had to do with me not sleeping enough, maybe my period coming (may be TMI), or perhaps even too much added sugar the night before.

I. Did. Not. Know. And for the record, I didn’t care what the reason behind it was; I just wanted my energy returned to me so I could be ready when the lights came on.

Come to find out, my energy during training and competition had everything to do with what I was eating pre-workout. From hours to minutes before – it matters. Today we will touch on immediately pre-training or competition. But first, why carbs?

Carbohydrates for performance

Let’s do a little science and anatomy lesson. For moderate to high-intensity intermittent or prolonged training, glycogen (stored energy in muscle and liver) and blood glucose is going to be hooking you up with the power you need.

Unbeknownst to me back in the day, fueling with carbs pre-workout can top off your stored energy in your muscles. This energy is typically used first in training, depending on how hard you are going and what kind of exercise you are doing.

It is recommended that you consume about 1-4g/kg of body weight of carbohydrate pre-workout to top off carb stores.

Why are carbs better than protein or fat pre-workout?

The most straightforward answer to this is that your body prefers carbs. Period. But other macros have a place; it just may not be in the way you think!

Let’s start with fat. If your body is not trained to use fat as its primary substrate – it ain’t gonna do much for ya! On the flip side, even if your body is trained to be metabolically efficient – research supports providing carb-loading pre-workout to ensure you can go all out. But post-workout and between sessions? Absolutely!

For protein, there is nothing wrong with providing your body with amino acids, as they can help build and maintain muscle mass. However, to use these amino acids as energy, something called gluconeogenesis needs to happen-meaning you have to make the glucose.

Believe me, by the time you pronounce that correctly, your body could have already used carbs instead. You ain’t got time for that! So those of you thinking those BCAA’s are going to give you a boost of pre-workout energy, it is probably just the caffeine (check the ingredients lol). You can, however, add a bit in with your pre-workout carbs to help with muscle growth.

Best High-Carb Pre-workout Snacks

Okay, now that ya’ll have the details. Let’s get to what you came here for – my top seven high-carb pre-workout snacks that are best utilized about one hour pre-workout. As I mentioned, you want to have about 1-4g/kg carb around this time!

  1. Banana – Easy to digest carbs, portable, and of course delicious. Are you desiring another type of fruit? Feel free. You just want to watch out for too much fiber as it could cause stomach cramping. So, if the skin is edible, removing it may be even more helpful.
  1. Dates – Compact, travel well, shelf-stable and super high carb – Long lasting energy for long runs or training.
  1. Rice Cakes + jam – May be a little more filling! But we are looking at a solid 20-40 g in a tiny jam-covered cake.
  1. Pretzels + Cuties – Another portable snack that can take you from 0-100 real quick! Plus it’s got the sweet and salty combo. The sodium from the pretzels adds an extra layer of performance love on the hydration side.
  1. Fruit Leather – Okay, for those of you that came up on fruit roll-ups like me…this should speak to you. It’s not just for kids either! Dried fruit packs a carb punch which is great for pre-training or competition.
  1. Applesauce – Don’t want to chew? No problem, apple sauce is ready to slurp and digest. You are fueling your performance one spoonful at a time.
  1. Energy Chews – ProBar Blot, Skratch Labs, Cliff Bar – many sports brands have glucose and fructose in them (this is incredibly awesome for during exercise).

The final tea

To wrap things up (now that you have my handy dandy list), remember when it comes to immediately pre-workout, in most circumstances, for sessions lasting longer than one hour, choose carb first. You’ll want to limit fat, protein, and fiber around this time as well to ensure quick absorption and comfort.  

Looking for some individualized help in this area because you are tired of reading blogs trying to figure it out? Reach out to us about 1:1 coaching. We got you!

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