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Should I Eat Carbs After My Workout?

Sometimes the extra planning needed to fill up an empty tank after a workout, whether it was a hard HIIT set or a long yoga flow, seems harder than it really is.

You may have heard that the combination of macronutrients in a post-workout snack matters. But there has been some uncertainty about how your macros, especially carbohydrates, should be set. Even though you may have heard people say that eating carbs after exercise isn’t a good idea, both science and professional opinion support eating carbs to speed up recovery.

In conclusion, it’s a good idea to eat carbs after exercise. Learn how, when, and why you should reach for them in the following paragraphs.

Are Carbs Necessary After Exercise?

You generally don’t need to refuel with carbohydrates after a modest activity like a brisk walk or stretching session during your lunch break. But if your workout was more intense, it probably used up all of your glycogen stores, which are the main source of energy for intense exercise in the body.

Pairing carbs with protein improves how well they accomplish this. Proteins and carbs work together to speed up the rate at which glycogen is stored in the body. 

Post-Workout Carb Benefits

A crucial macronutrient for post-exercise recovery is carbohydrates. Here are four wonderful reasons to enjoy a dish of potatoes or a bowl of pasta after a strenuous workout.

Preventing Post-Workout Fatigue with Carbs

You could feel as though you’re running on fumes when you’ve depleted your stockpiles because the body likes to use glycogen for energy during vigorous activity. Reintroducing carbohydrates to your diet can help you recover more quickly and with less fatigue.

Studies have also shown that eating carbs after exercise makes you more likely to be able to keep going during your next workout. Having a high-carb snack today could help you perform better tomorrow.

Carbs help control Blood Sugar

In most cases, your blood sugar levels drop when you exercise. Never hold off on grabbing foods high in carbohydrates to bring your glucose back into the positive range. By doing this, you can avoid the unpleasant symptoms of hypoglycemia, such as trembling, a headache, feeling foggy, and having a fast heartbeat.

Carbohydrates Aid in Muscle Recovery

Although you may believe that protein is the only macronutrient that helps you gain muscle, carbs also play a supportive role in this process. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, and carbohydrates help them reach muscles more quickly, accelerating muscular growth and recovery. Additionally, they aid in boosting protein synthesis and reducing protein degradation.

Carbs Lower Cortisol Levels

In response to low blood sugar, cortisol—often referred to as “the stress hormone”—increases. 5 When you eat more carbs to keep your blood sugar stable, it may also lower your cortisol levels.

Carbs to Choose Following a Workout

You may wonder if all carbohydrates are created equal when it comes to post-workout eating now that you know they are safe to consume after your cool-down. Not quite. DiMarino says that complex carbohydrates would be best because they are easy to turn into glycogen. Complex carbohydrate foods include whole grains, vegetables, beans, and potatoes, which are also high in fiber.

That being the case, eating high-fiber foods soon after engaging in vigorous activity may occasionally cause stomach issues. Simple carbs may be tolerated better after exercise, according to DiMarino. To find the nutrients that are most effective for you, it is crucial to experiment with different combinations while training.

DiMarino provides the following recommendations for the ideal carbohydrate intake: “15–45 grams of carbs after a workout is a good range, with more carbs needed after harder workouts. It has been demonstrated that a ratio of 3–4 carbs to proteins is advantageous. This combination helps your body recover by filling up the glycogen stores that were used up during workouts and fixing any muscle damage.

When to Eat Carbs After Working Out

It’s crucial to eat carbs within a specific window of time after working out to benefit from them. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics advises consuming carbohydrates an hour after strenuous activity. Just be aware of how you feel about eating right after you work out. Some people feel better after a full meal, while others feel better after a snack followed by a meal a little later.