We are taught that simple carbohydrates or simple sugars are unhealthy for us and its true that eating a lot of sugar can make you fat and even give you diabetes. However, like most things, in moderation and at the right time, can be helpful to you as a workout fuel. “Complex carbs, which are nothing more than a bunch of sugar molecules chained together, take longer to digest than simple sugars, so they are ideal to consume throughout the day to control blood sugar levels. Simple sugars, on the other hand, quickly enter the blood and elevate blood sugar, spiking insulin release (source).” Insulin spikes aren’t normally something you want, but during exercise a rise in blood sugar is anabolic or helpful for building muscle. This quick source of sugar for workout fuel bypasses the fat store and goes directly to your muscles as fuel.
Carbohydrates and sugars are one in the same thing. There are simple sugars such as honey and cane sugar and complex sugars like those in grains like wheat and oats. Complex carbohydrates take longer to digest so you shouldn’t eat too many as your workout fuel. A small bowl of oatmeal with some sugar or honey is a good choice. The honey (simple sugar) is quickly digested and available almost immediately for workout fuel. The oatmeal (complex sugar) provides sustained energy so you won’t experience a sugar crash half way through your run.
Post-Workout Sugar Fix
No one is advocating eating spoonfuls of simple sugar before or after you exercise. However, just as there is a place for sugar as part of your workout fuel, there’s a place for it after you workout. Your muscles are depleted of glycogen after a workout especially after a heavy weight-training workout. Simple sugars increase insulin levels and helps your muscles replenish their glycogen stores. Some sources will tell you to consume extra carbohydrates and protein as soon as possible to take advantage of the anabolic effect. However, other studies show there is no need to rush. Take your time and select some tasty and healthy nutrients for your post-workout meals.
Fitness Tips: Doing high intensity workouts on low carb diets leads to depletion of glycogen over time. If you want to do a moderate carb diet make sure you pad your workouts. Meaning, eat the majority of your cabs before and after your workout so your body can rebuild, replenish and heal. This will also allow you to avoid binging later on.