For some people, finishing an intense workout means a serious case of the munchies.For others, hunger is the last thing on their mind. No matter which category you fit into, replenishing your muscles’ glycogen stores after (and before) a workout is important for seeing results. An effective way to get that quick boost of energy before or after a workout is turning to fast digesting carbohydrates – foods that quickly raise your blood sugar levels and restore your muscles’ supply of glycogen.
Fast digesting carbohydrates increase your blood sugar levels quickly after consumption. In the 1980’s, a Canadian doctor named Dr. David Jenkins created the glycemic index (GI) as a way to measure the effects of carbohydrates on blood sugar levels. When you eat carbohydrates, they are broken down into simple sugars which enter your bloodstream. The glycemic index ranks how quickly foods raise your blood sugar levels, with high glycemic foods spiking your blood sugar levels more quickly and significantly than low ones. Fast digesting carbohydrates are high glycemic foods, which means they have this ability to quickly boost blood sugar levels.
The best times to have fast-digesting carbohydrates are before and after a workout. When you work out, your muscles’ main source of energy is glycogen (the form of glucose stored in your body’s tissues). Working out depletes your body of glycogen. This is noteworthy because glycogen is key for muscle growth and maintenance. By consuming a meal high in fast digesting carbohydrates before and after a workout, you ensure your muscles’ supply of glycogen is maintained, while also providing yourself with an important energy boost. Additionally, eating fast-digesting carbs first thing in the morning can be beneficial for preventing muscle breakdown and managing hormone levels.
When it comes to fast digesting carbohydrates, it’s all about which ones you choose. Fast digesting carbohydrates like white bread, bananas, pasta, or white rice will give you a healthier energy boost than foods like candy, chocolate, or chips.
Timing is everything! Many people turn to fast digesting carbohydrates when they are snacking, which can lead to weight gain and longer term insulin issues. Instead, focus on consuming slower digesting carbohydrates (this includes many types of fruits and vegetables) as snacks, and save the fast digesting carbohydrates for a pre or post workout treat.
When you’re looking for a quick energy fix, try snacking on fruits like bananas, grapes, watermelon, dates and peaches. Bagels, rice cakes, and crackers will also do the trick, as will white potato, sweet potatoes and yams. If possible, avoid less nutritious fast digesting carbohydrates like biscuits, cakes, ice cream, cookies, or candy, as these foods lack fiber and other essential nutrients that are readily available in other fast carbohydrate choices.