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Carbs Before or After a Workout?



Should you eat carbohydrates before or after your workout?

Diana Robinson- Nutritionist

The age-old question of ‘carbs before or after a work out’ comes down to what you want to achieve from your work out. Are you exercising for weight loss or weight gain? Are you training for an event or are you simply exercising to stay fit and healthy? The answer to these questions will determine when you should be consuming carbohydrates.

What are Carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates provide energy to cells which are vital for brain function, physical activity and bodily processes and they are the main source of fuel for prolonged or high-intensity exercise. If there are insufficient carbohydrates in the diet, the body will use its stored glycogen as an energy source. This is ideal if you are on a weight loss program, however, if you want to maintain or increase your weight, you will need to consume some carbohydrate before your workout to ensure you don’t dip into your glycogen stores.

Workouts and Carbs

After exercise, your metabolism will be raised, so anything you consume after a workout will be metabolised at a much faster rate than your normal resting metabolism. For anyone on a low carb diet, this is the best time to consume carbohydrates, as they will be utilised much more efficiently than if you consume them at any other time of the day.

If you have been doing prolonged or high-intensity exercise, your glycogen stores will most likely be running low, so consuming some carbohydrate before exercising will help your body to refuel and recover more efficiently.

Amount of Carbs Needed

Daily carbohydrate requirements are dependent on the amount of physical activity you do. You should alter the amount of carbohydrates consumed to match the amount of fuel required for that day. For example, your carbohydrate intake should be lower on non-training days, and higher on days you intend to be physically active.

Daily carbohydrate requirements for activity level:

  • Light activity – 3-5g per kg of body weight.
  • Moderate activity (1 hour/day) – 5-7g per kg of body weight.
  • High activity (endurance program 1-3 hours/day) – 6-10 per kg of body weight.
  • Very high (Athlete level >4-5 hours/day) – 8-12g per kg of body weight.

To summarise, for weight loss, carbohydrates post workout are best. For performance and recovery, eating carbs before and after a workout will give you best results.

DianaRobinson_PhotoDiana Robinson is a Melbourne based nutritionist working in clinical practice with a special interest in food intolerance, fitness and mood disorders.

Diana graduated from Melbourne’s Endeavour College of Natural Health with a Bachelor Degree in Health Science – Nutritional Medicine. She is a firm believer in living life to the full and taking care of your body by feeding it healthy, nutritious food but not forgetting to nourish your mental wellbeing also.

Diana encourages patients to seek enjoyment from the food they eat rather than having a negative relationship with food. When you learn to eat right, you will learn that food is your friend and not your enemy. 

You can follow her Instagram for inspiration and recipes @dianar_nutrition.

Anne Iarchy – Founder and Owner of The Finchley Weight Loss Centre by AI Fitness, and Public Speaker

Carbs have been demonised by many, and there are diets that even suggest that you should totally cut them out.

However, carbs are one of the main 3 food groups. So in my opinion, they serve an important role in our nutrition, otherwise they wouldn’t be one of the 3.

Of course, one can argue that there are better and worse carbs, and how much carbs we should have a day can also be debatable.

What Carbs Do for Your Body

Let’s quickly find out what carbs are good for:

  • They are a main energy source for our body. Our body uses the energy from carbs first, before it uses protein and fat.
  • Our brains are completely dependent on carbohydrates.

Types of Carbs

We also know that there are 2 types of carbs:

  1. Simple carbs
  2. Complex carbs

How Your Body Uses Carbs

When you eat carbs, they are broken down by your digestive system into mainly glucose. This glucose is absorbed into your blood stream (you might have heard of blood sugar levels). Your brain will use that blood glucose first, then the remainder will be used to other tissues, including muscles. What’s not used will be converted into glycogen, which can be found in our muscles, and liver for future use.

Types of Carbs to Have and When to Have These

Straight after an event, you would focus more on consuming complex carbs, with some good sources of protein. If you’re just going to a regular exercise class, then a healthy meals is more than enough.

For those lifting heavier weight and doing strength training, then have protein after your session, as this is more important than the focus on consuming extra carbs. The longer the exercise session, the more having the right carbs at the right time comes into play.

Just remember that carbs are not just bread, pasta and rice. Carbs are also fruit, pulses, whole grains and vegetables!


Anne Iarchy is the founder and owner of The Finchley Weight Loss Centre by AI Fitness. She helps busy professionals create a healthy lifestyle for weight loss, exercise, nutrition and mindset change.

Anne’s passion was developed after struggling with weight and health issues herself while working in the corporate world as an IT security director. She found being on the road, traveling and in meetings made staying healthy a challenge.

At the time, she was working with a personal trainer herself, but never received a full-solution to her struggles. So in 2010, Anne left the corporate world, and started helping people just like her.

She continues to develop her knowledge in nutrition, supplementation, as well as mindset. And is a regular speaker within her local community in North London.

Anne’s latest eBook, ‘Ditch the Diet‘ is now available.

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Disclaimer: The information published in this column are based on each of the author’s own professional and personal knowledge, and opinion. This information and opinion is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment of any manner. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding any medical condition and consult a qualified medical professional before beginning any nutritional program or exercise program. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on InShape News.

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