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Taking carbs during your training session can boost your performance and allow you to work longer, harder, and get better results than ever before. They also help keep you from running into a fatigue wall, and give you extra gas in the tank, much better than just chugging down some more stimulants that only help to cover the fatigue. This is why you should add carbs to your intra-workout drink.
They are the body’s primary source of energy, and the harder you train, the more carbs your body will need to burn in order to fuel you through the workout. This is especially the case with regards to bodybuilding or powerlifting, even CrossFit, because of the high-intensity burst nature of these sports.
Fatigue can quickly sneak up on you, especially when you drain the body of glycogen stores (stored carbs), this is made even worse if you start your workout with a depleted reservoir. Once this happens, your body will stop pulling energy from these stores, and focus rather on conserving your energy resources.
This is where you will reap the benefits of an intra-workout carb because you can continue burning energy to fuel your intense training sessions, rather than focus on conserving energy. If you are trying to build muscle then an intra-workout carb should definitely be on your list, but it is extremely beneficial for losing weight as well.
Your performance will start to drop once all the reps and sets start to add up and culminate in your body not being able to recover. This will lead to you not being able to lift as heavy and have to lower your total volume, threatening your ability to make gains. Kind of the opposite of what you want to achieve. Intra workout carb consumption will give you a rapidly available energy source, allowing you to push for longer before you burn out. This, in turn, allows you to do more work during your session, and at a higher intensity as well, promoting muscle and strength gains.
Intra carb workout consumption can prevent the increase in cortisol levels (the “stress” hormone) during prolonged training, as well as for several hours later. Cortisol being reduced will delay the catabolic processes that cortisol activates, keeping your muscle protected and free from possible damage. You will recover faster because your body will not have to repair the damage from cortisol, giving you more juice for the next session.
As stated before, carbs are the primary energy source for the body; this includes the mind too. Mental focus is key for technique manipulation and concentration. Without a fully operational mental system, your body cannot hope to function properly seeing as how the brain is the centre for every bodily function. Following this, we need a higher level of concentration when we do heavy compound lifts (bench press, deadlifts, squats, etc), and a lack of concentration can lead to failure to complete a safe movement and can cause injury.
When taken during a session, carbs are used more efficiently for energy, so there is less chance of them being stored as adipose tissue (body fat). It is also important to keep in mind that your intra-workout carb intake must be added into your daily macro count for the day, otherwise it could be made to be less effective.
Note how we have been saying intra-workout carb throughout this article and not just carbs. The reason for this is because you can’t just bring a bowl of rice or a potato with you to the gym to snack on while you train. Nor are we talking about eating gummy bears or other sweets during training. The only option to go for is a specific intra-workout powder to mix with water or other liquid. This will ensure optimal digestion, without hindering your performance by distressing the stomach.
Dextrose is a good option but this could be bothersome for your system, so a better option would be a waxy maize such as Amplify Waxy Maize, or the SSN Cytomaize. The absolute best option to go for would be Vitargo®, such as the TNT Vitargo or the Scitec Nutrition Vitargo!. Whichever you choose to use, just make sure to sip on it throughout your workout, to ensure optimal absorption, and add a BCAA powder to it for some anabolism during your training.
Waxy Maize is an extremely fast absorbing carbohydrate source, ideal for athletes at any level. Supplementing with Waxy Maize helps optimize glycogen energy storage, increases hydration ad promotes increased muscularity. It can be used pre, intra and post-training or during competitions to give you an edge.
Despite being a lengthy debate between when the best time to take them is, and how to take them best, it boils down to what works for you. Some prefer to take them before and during, others during and after, so it is up to you to set up little experiments to find out exactly what works best for you.
As a guideline, those that train for longer than an hour will benefit from using intra-workout carbs.
This is generalised but what matters most is the duration, intensity, and volume of your workout. If you are only training for 40 minutes but with short rest periods and heavy weights, it is definitely a good idea to take carbs, but if you are training for an hour and a half with long rest periods, then you might not them need as much. Again, everyone is different so if you feel you need them, then try them out.
As a simple outline, this is how much carbs you should consume depending on the length of your training;