Since the carb-cutting Keto craze, this has been a hotly debated topic…
…with claims like:
- Carbs are necessary to build muscle and strength
- Without carbs, you lose power
- Keto helps burn fat and build muscle
I came across a new systematic review and meta-analysis of 21 randomized controlled crossover trials that helps shed some light on this topic.
Here’s the result of the analysis:
Acute carbohydrate ingestion before or during exercise had a positive effect on the total training session volume compared to placebo.– examine.com
Great! So now you know you need carbs to exercise, right?
That is, it’s not that simple. I like to look at this in terms of your goals. In simple terms:
Do you want to lose or gain weight?
For most people, the goal is weight loss (and I think weight loss isn’t a great goal).
For people wanting to lose fat, I think that it makes sense to do (at least some of) your workouts fasted.
You’ll burn more fat because your body is already using fat for fuel – and your glycogen stores are running low.
(Warning: There are clear risks and downsides to over-exercising – especially if you are immunocompromised and/or have hormone dysregulations. In simple terms, don’t add stress to stress. There are other low-stress exercises you can do – like breathwork that can also give your body and mind big benefits.)
What if you want gain weight and/or build muscle and strength?
If you want to maximize your performance in the gym (or wherever you do resistance exercises), you will want to do (at least some of) your workouts with carbs.
Carbs give you more power and endurance.
The analysis found that, for workouts of more than 45 minutes, there was a statistically significant decrease in performance for the fasted group.
Here’s my takeaway:
If you want to lose weight, do more workouts fasted.
If you want to build muscle, do more workouts fueled on carbs.
But… there’s no need to be super-strict about it. That is, mix things up a bit and see how you perform and how you feel.
One of my favorite things to do recently is a short (30-50 minutes) resistance workout after an ice bath.
This may sound counter to what you’ve learned, as most people do cold after exercise to relieve their muscles and joints.
However, a recent study showed that the cold exposure increases exercise performance. And I agree. I feel amazingly energized (and stay cool!) after the ice bath.
What about you…
What’s your favorite way to exercise?