Sugar. It's an ingredient that has long been vilified by body-conscious athletes, but is it always as bad as it turns out? Finally, on the nutrition labels, you can find added sugar for everything from sports drinks to energy gels to protein bars, all of which are geared towards athletes.
While sugary foods, especially those with added sugars, shouldn't make up the majority of the carbohydrates in your diet for health reasons most familiar, such as diabetes or potential heart problems, an occasional indulgence won't derail your progress. And if you eat them after a particularly tough workout, they may just be helping your muscles.
Before delving specifically into sugar and its role in exercise, it is important to understand that carbohydrates, a major source of energy in the body that plays a key role in every body function, including your exercise, fall into three general categories: simple, complex, and Fiber. Simple carbohydrates are sugars that are quickly digested and provide the body with quick energy.
In the long run, a balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fats will help any trainee achieve their goals, whether it's bulking or cutting. However, it is an especially good idea to make sure you consume carbohydrates both before and after your workout. Consuming simple carbohydrates, also known as sugars, during exercise can even be helpful when it is particularly intense or when the exercise volume is high.
You want to make sure that carbohydrates are a part of your diet when you exercise hard because your muscles literally depend on them during an intense workout. Whether you are consuming fast-digesting or complex carbohydrates, the body breaks all digestible carbohydrates down into simple sugars, all of which end up as glucose, also known as blood sugar. Some of this glucose is converted to glycogen, and some of this glycogen is stored in the muscles for later use as fuel.
F.For optimal performance, muscles need glycogen on hand. During intensive training, the muscles are almost exclusively supplied with glycogen. Even during moderately intense training, the muscles draw around 50 percent of their energy from it. And if an athlete hits the infamous "wall" during a workout, it is due to the depleted glycogen.
For this reason, it's a good idea to have a meal of slower-digesting complex carbohydrates about 2-4 hours before your workout. This gives you time to digest these carbohydrates and use them as sustainable fuel as they take longer to process. It is especially important if your workout lasts more than an hour.
But even if you are properly fueled, the longer your workout, the longer the glucose and glycogen will be depleted.
For a workout that lasts longer than an hour – and we're talking about an intense workout that doesn't take long breaks during the workout to check your Instagram feed – it may be beneficial to drink or eat something sugary in order to maintain your blood sugar and give the muscles the glycogen they need to stay strong. Sports drinks or a shake with sugar and water are good choices as they digest quickly and help replenish the water lost during exercise.
And every athlete knows that after training, it's time to eat. Countless old-school coaches told cautionary stories about the 30-minute "anabolic window" where trainees should chug a protein shake so they don't lose their precious winnings. There's conflicting evidence in this regard, but one thing is certain when it comes to the depleted glycogen discussed earlier: a high-carb meal or a post-workout snack will replenish you.
When it comes to carbohydrates, research has shown that consuming around 0.5 grams per pound of body weight within 30 minutes to an hour of heavy lifting maximizes glycogen recovery and slows muscle protein breakdown. If you ingest these carbohydrates while your blood is still pumping hard, the glycogen can get to the muscles that need it.
Many bodybuilders know this and formulate their shakes with simple carbohydrates and protein to help fuel that recovery. Some take the opportunity to pamper themselves in this window and enjoy things that are not normally part of their diet. A popular option is gummy bears or other candy that is essentially pure sugar. Others may opt for a small piece of cake or sugary granola.
If you ask us, there's no better time to indulge in half a pound of cookie from My Cookie Dealer. They're possibly the only cookies that look normal size next to the biggest bodybuilders in the game. So it's not surprising that they make a well-suited post-workout sugar kick.