Having a carb drink pre- and post-workout has been in vogue for quite some time, in support of the theory that it was essential for keeping blood sugar levels high enough to power balls-to-the wall workouts. Never mind that all too often these killer workouts are as intense as collecting stamps or sorting coins. Personally, I’ve never been a fan of carbing up right before or during weight training.
First of all, yesterday’s carbs—what you ate throughout the day—are today’s muscle glycogen, which is what fuels a big part of your workout, at least in the off-season. If you have the proper nutrition based on your training split, you should have little problem with energy. The carbs that I believe you should eat an hour or two before the workout are designed more to keep your blood sugar levels stable, and to fuel your brain more than the musculature.
Second, all kinds of metabolic and hormonal magic transpire when your blood sugar levels decrease, as should be the case during a hard workout. We’re not talking about really low blood sugar that makes you shake, feel irritable, foggy or break out in a cold forehead sweat. I’ve talked about the insulin-glucagon hormonal seesaw in prior articles, so let’s just say that I prefer to burn fat when I train and refuel when I ‘m done. Coincidentally, growth hormone secretion is blunted when you’re training with higher insulin levels following all that carb ingestion at the wrong time.
Third, the body carbs up better with post-workout carbs, following depletion during the workout. Eating then offers super compensation to recover better. Fact: There has never been one legitimate scientific study showing that any high-glycemic carb powder, liquid or gel carbs you up any better than white rice or white potato (among many other simple-carb foods). In fact, extremely high-glycemic index carbs supplements are notorious for causing rebound hypoglycemia, which leaves you with lower blood sugar than you had before you consumed anything. Be forewarned: Extreme rebound hypoglycemia can be a growth-killing catabolic festival.
You’re a bodybuilder not a triathlete who lives in the world of ultra-endurance. If you are consistently “hitting the wall” prior to completing your training, your diet and possibly your motivation levels are likely lacking. Therefore, liquid carbs may not be the best solution for you.