For anyone who has been looking to get in shape, the prevailing belief is to avoid carbs at all costs. While cutting carbs is effective if your primary focus is fat loss, it is detrimental to strength, performance, and muscle gain.
Bodybuilders know a thing or two about gaining lean muscle mass. For years, they have recommended eating fast absorbing sugars such as gummy bears right after a workout. But why? Isn’t sugar supposed to make you fat?
Common misconception #1: sweets are bad
Not all carbs and sugars are the same. There are a wide variety of carbohydrates from simple to complex along the spectrum we refer to as the glycemic index. Carbohydrates that digest fast and immediately spike blood sugar/insulin levels are high on the scale, and carbohydrates that take a long time to digest or only slightly elevate blood sugar levels for a longer period of time are low on the scale.
Common misconception #2: Protein, Protein, Protein
Protein is King when it comes to post work out supplementation, but it’s only one component of sports performance nutrition. Protein and BCAAs are important for muscle synthesis. However, equally important is how we replenish our glycogen stores after depleting them through intense activity. Inadequate glycogen levels decrease your ability to gain strength and muscle.
When glucose levels rise in the blood, our bodies either use it immediately for fuel, or it is converted to glycogen for later use. Glycogen functions as long-term energy reserves in our bodies, think of it as the human equivalent of batteries. It is primarily stored in the cells of muscles and liver. So, glycogen is the stored form of glucose; it is a multibranched polysaccharide, meaning it is composed of numerous strings of glucose branches. When cells need energy, glucose break from the glycogen chain as needed in order to generate ATP.
What happens during and after intense exercise
There is a short period post-exercise, that the body will be most effective at converting glucose back into muscle glycogen. The workout or metabolic window only lasts between 30 to 120 minutes after activity. Outside of this window, the body is less effective at converting glucose into muscle glycogen storage.
So, it is important to replace glycogen in this period as quickly and efficiently as possible. Researchers recommend the best way to replace muscle glycogen is to consume a fast-acting (high-glycemic) carbohydrate immediately after working out.
Bodybuilders prefer gummy bears because they are sweetened with ingredients like dextrose and corn syrup- both of which are fast absorbing carbohydrates. Because these ingredients don’t have to be broken down through the digestive process, they are quickly absorbed into the blood and utilized by the muscles.
Different types of carbs
So, what’s the difference between a high-glycemic fast carbohydrate vs. other carbohydrates. From our previous post, glucose is the most important monosaccharide as it is the primary form that the body uses for energy. All other carbohydrates must be converted to glucose during digestion so that it is readily available. Glucose and glucose equivalents are immediately absorbed into the blood and utilized right away.
Can’t I just eat fruit?
Fruit is a healthy way to get carbohydrates but is a sub-optimal choice post-workout. The reason is because it is actually a low glycemic option and will not spike blood sugar adequately to efficiently replace muscle glycogen. Fructose must be broken down by the body and converted to glucose in the liver where it is also subsequently stored as glycogen. By the time any of the glucose from fruit reaches the muscles, it will be an inadequate amount and past the optimal time to replenish glycogen in the muscles.
This is why bodybuilders eat gummy bears. They are sweetened with dextrose and corn syrup. (regular corn syrup is primarily composed of glucose, unlike it’s high fructose counterpart). Wonka Pixie stix are also used since they contain pure dextrose. We, of course, recommend Energon Qube Recover as SGCs performance gummies contain the right mix of glucose and other beneficial ingredients that help you recover faster post-workout.
Not only will high glycemic carbohydrates refuel your muscles after an intense workout, you’ll feel better too. Because you are quickly replenishing glycogen stores, you will be less tired, and are less likely to eat junk later in the day. You are more likely to make better food choices because your muscles aren’t starving!
What should you eat post workout?
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Ivy, J. (1998). Glycogen Resynthesis After Exercise: Effect of Carbohydrate Intake. International Journal of Sports Medicine, 19(S 2). doi:10.1055/s-2007-971981
Ivy, John & Portman, Robert. Nutrient Timing: The Future of Sports Nutrition. Basic Health Publications, Inc., 2004.
Robergs, R. A., Pearson, D. R., Costill, D. L., Fink, W. J., Pascoe, D. D., Benedict, M. A., . . . Zachweija, J. J. (1991). Muscle glycogenolysis during differing intensities of weight-resistance exercise. Journal of Applied Physiology, 70(4), 1700-1706. doi:10.1152/jappl.1922.214.171.1240
Tesch, P. A., Colliander, E. B., & Kaiser, P. (1986). Muscle metabolism during intense, heavy-resistance exercise. European Journal of Applied Physiology and Occupational Physiology, 55(4), 362-366. doi:10.1007/bf00422734