Should you use intra-workout carbs?
First off, the science here is rather fuzzy. Let’s look at the benefits though first, and work backward;
1. Elevated Insulin: To build muscle, we need a net positive effect on muscle protein balance. Training is a stressor, which in reality, the body cannot differentiate between preparing to be mauled by a panther, and simple exercise-induced stress.
All stress can induce increases in epinephrine, and adrenaline, along with glucagon, and cortisol – all CATABOLIC hormones, which mean increased muscle breakdown.
Cortisol is VERY catabolic (induces net muscle protein balance).
Adding intra-workout carbs can reduce muscle breakdown (mainly by increased insulin levels), therefore increasing the net positive nitrogen balance, as since insulin is extremely anti-catabolic.
2. Increased ATP production: The source of energy that is used to power the movement of contraction in working muscles is adenosine triphosphate (ATP) – the body’s biochemical way to store and transport energy.
3. Glycogen Replenishment: Some proponents claim that intra-carbs can keep muscle glycogen full.
On average the body stores around 500g of glycogen in the body. According to research, during a session of resistance training, glycogen can be depleted by about approximately 36%; which will be dependent on the intensity, volume, and duration of the training session.
So with that said, the influx of easily digestible carbs can help keep muscles full, and generally speaking, a glycogen full muscle is more anabolic.
For example, supersizing your post-workout carbohydrate (e.g., with 90-100g of carbs) may or may not inhibit protein breakdown.
4. Increased nutrient transport: by consuming carbohydrates, we’re elevating insulin levels. Insulins’ main job is to clear glucose from circulation, and drive into either immediate use, or stored in the liver, and muscle.
So by having a stream of glucose available, we can, therefore, partition nutrients where we want them (in the muscles being broken down), in theory, speeding up the recovery process.
5. Neurotransmitter production: This is a side benefit, but as we consume highly palatable food items (simple carbs) we’ll stimulate the release of dopamine, which can lead to more focus, and intensity in a training session.
This is why even while in a diet phase when carbs are low, we should utilize even a small amount. As when we diet, we downregulate these neurotransmitters, and we can benefit acutely during training with a simple carb source.
WHO SHOULD BE WORRIED ABOUT THIS?!
At the end of the day though, don’t step over dollars to pick up pennies. If you’re not in a positive, or negative energy balance, and you don’t have a handle on those variables, intra- workout carbs are just a waste of money.
Let’s look at WHO should use intra-workout carbohydrates.
1. Beginners / Novice lifters: Meaning 1-2 years of weight training. Intra-workout carbs are not a necessity.
This would be like planning the wedding for your dream girl when you haven’t even sacked up the courage to ask her to Fro Yo.
Stop worrying about the little shit, and focus on the fundamentals.
We want to focus on basics here, and we’ll get a substantial upside. Focus on progressive overload, hydration, and adequate protein, and caloric intake to drive performance.
2. Intermediates: (2-5 years of lifting) I think intermediates should utilize this, but let’s start with Gatorade powder and creatine. I don’t think anything else is needed, as long as your hitting your daily protein need.
3. Advanced: 5+ Years…… All advanced lifters should utilize this, as when we get deep into our lifting career, it becomes more and more important to focus on the details.
For advanced lifters, I suggest keeping essential amino acids, sea salt, and creatine, and a simple carb source during training.
This combo will allow for MPS signaling to occur during our training session.
Therefore helping to shuttle nutrients, creatine, and cellular hydration direct to the muscles we’re working.
I suggest for more advanced lifters to use a carb source with higher osmotic value (gut clearance rate), such as highly branched chain cyclic dextrins.
If you want to utilize this, here is my exact intra-workout stack.
- Morphogen Nutrition Hexagen https://www.morphogennutrition.com/collections/supplements/products/hexagen
- The dose depends on your overall carb intake, or goals. Personally, I’m bulking and consuming around 600g carbs daily on training days, so I use around 100g of carbs from Hexagon.
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- Synthegen EEAs: I use 40g of EAAs from this. The dose will depend on size, see chart below for reference
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- 3. Creatine: I use 10g of creatine monohydrate while training from PE Science. The dose depends on sex, females, 5g will be fine, for larger males, I reccomend 10g.
- Link to order: https://pescience.com/products/trucreatine?variant=185079627802
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- 4. Pink Himalayan Sea Salt: Lastly, just add around a TSP of this for cellular hydration and increased transport/ muscle contractions.