Should you pre-workout snack?

Easy question but difficult answer! If your goal is weight loss or general fitness, I wouldn’t worry about a pre-workout snack. It would be the case if you’re hungry or if it’s afternoon teatime and gym happens to coincide with this pre-snack. In that case, so be it.

For those with diabetes, it would be a case of checking blood sugar levels, to see if you need to take in additional carbs prior to the workout. Again, it would be a case-by-case basis.

 Snacking pre-workout is not imperative for most people

Where the science has shown pre-workout snacking to be beneficial is for athletes. In this blog, I have explored muscle building in-depth. So, for those looking to get huge biceps, a combo of carbs, creatine and protein is ideal 30-45 minutes pre-training.

Things become more interesting when we explore cardio-based sports like cycling, swimming and running. Well, it interested me because of my own person triathlon goals.

In journal club (yes, I know, how nerdy of me) a few weeks ago, we looked at a new study that was published. It explored the idea of pre-exercise carbohydrate dosage, at different time periods, to determine if this yielded a competitive edge for an athlete.

Within the same study, they also looked at different concentrations of carbs, to see which would be the most effective in producing these performance enhancements.

The results of the study showed that when athletes drank a 6.4% solution of approx. 32g of carbs, 30min before racing on a bike, they recorded the highest power output than any other trial. This means they could cycle harder and faster, during the race for a specific amount of time, when compared to everyone else. Some of the other trials included having carbs 120 min before a race, and having carb solutions of: 0. 2 & 11%.

There is a huge misconception in the fitness industry, and in the general sporting community, that snacking before an event, even 1-2 hrs prior, is enough to ‘cover’ yourself pre-event. We now know that the benefits are not as great, if timing or concentration isn’t right. Especially at the 2 hrs-prior mark – you might as well not eat!

Timing of and amount of carbohydrates in your snack are crucial factors in getting any performance benefits. The take home message for athletes is to snack 30min prior to any heavy training set, and have at least 32g of carbs in that snack. Hopefully that will get you travelling a bit faster.

Remember, some people do experience gut issues eating before training or even reflux, so you may need to test this regime before a real race!

You know what would make me so happy? If you like this post, do me a favour and share it with your friends on Facebook and Twitter. Use the sharing buttons below and if you’re REALLY keen, leave me a comment. Now, it’s time to go and eat before my run! Mmmm food.


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