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How to Fuel Workouts



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Despite what the Keto Bros are touting – carbohydrates are the best fuel for your workouts.

Whether you’re a recreational athlete hitting up yoga classes and cycling, or into endurance sports or a professional — the same concepts apply for fueling your exercise.

Carbohydrates are the master fuel.

This macronutrient is above and beyond all others in terms of what gets used for energy in workouts.

First, carbs are the only source of energy that can provide energy for anaerobic activities like sprinting, HIIT, and weight lifting.

Carbohydrates are a good source of rapid energy for several reasons. First, carbohydrates are actually stored in the muscle cells themselves. This means they are readily available to provide energy at the very outset of exercise, unlike most fats, which are stored at remote sites in the body and must be delivered via the bloodstream. This process, of taking fats and turning them into energy is long and complicated and will leave you fatigued before you even start.

Another reason carbohydrates are such an efficient fuel is that they can provide energy for a short period of time without the need for oxygen. To get energy for exercise or sports from fats, our cells must have oxygen. Without adequate amounts of oxygen being delivered to the muscles, fats and, to a lesser extent, proteins, can’t produce enough energy to support intense exercise.

Fortunately, not only are carbohydrates readily available for energy but also muscle cells can break down carbohydrates for energy without oxygen being present. This is known as anaerobic metabolism.

What’s worse, is that when carbohydrate intake is low, the body will breakdown muscle protein to make up for the deficit.

So if you’re not using carbs to fuel your workouts, you’ll notice a decrease in muscle mass. Which, if you’re an athlete or working on getting stronger, is not ideal.


0-4 hours before exercise –

consume 1-4g of carbohydrates per kg of body weight

  • 1.5 cups cereal, 1 cup soy milk, 1 cup orange juice (86 g carbs)
  • 2 pancakes, 2 tbsp maple syrup, 1/4 cup fresh fruit, 1 cup soy milk (83 g carbs)
  • 3/4 cup oatmeal (dry), 1/4 cup raisins, 2 tbsp walnuts, 1 cup soy milk (83 g)
  • 1 bagel, 2 tbsp peanut butter, 1 tbsp jelly, .5 cup unsweetened applesauce (71 g)

During exercise –

**30-60g glucose/hour during exercise – workouts under 1 hour do not need fuel during the exercise

  • Gatorade (15 g carbs)
  • Gu Energy Gel (25 g)
  • Clif Bar (45 g)
  • Honey Stinger Chews (39 g)
  • PowerBar (45 g)
  • Gu Chomps (4 pieces, 23 g)

After exercise –

1.0 – 1.2 g/kg body weight every hour for 4-6hrs post-exercise to restore glycogen stores

  • 1 medium bagel w/2 tbsp peanut butter (45 g)
  • Dried apricots 5 halves (11 g)
  • 1 small bran muffin (24 g)
  • 8oz veggie chili (25g)
  • 1 piece corn bread (29g)
  • 1 medium apple (21 g)
  • 1 slice whole wheat toast w/1 tbsp jam (27 g)
  • 1.5 cups green salad (7 g)
  • 1 cup mixed veggies (18 g)
  • 1 medium banana (27 g)
  • Macaroni and cheese (80 g)

No matter your level of sport or athleticism, you need to fuel your workouts properly in order to see the results you want.

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Hi, I'm Bri

Nutrition Educator, carb queen, mama of 4. You'll never find me in a supermarket screaming about ToXiNs in your favorite foods.

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