How To Carb Load Before Your Workout

Not all carbs are created equal, so when you hear that you should carb load before a workout it does not mean that you should chow down on three plates of spaghetti, a loaf of garlic bread and a candy bar for dessert. These are all examples of simple carbohydrates, which means that they are made of only one or two sugar molecules creating rapid digestion. The faster these sugar molecules make it into your system the quicker your blood glucose levels rise and fall creating energy spikes and crashes. Not exactly what you want before you take on a race, the weight bench or your high intensity interval training session.


You do need energy for your workouts though, and that is where a good carb load comes into play. Your body requires a healthy dose of glucose and glycogen to produce the amount of energy that you need during higher intensity workouts, and without carbohydrates in your diet it doesn’t have access to any. Although you may feel like skipping out on the carbs is a good idea before your workout, it is actually significantly decreasing your energy output level which means that your performance will quickly plummet.

The Right Food For A Pre Workout Carb Load

Whole Grains

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When you think of carbohydrates, you probably automatically think about grains like pasta, bread, flour and rice so it seems natural that these would be a part of your pre workout carb load. What you need to remember though is that not all carbohydrates are created equal, so while eating the whole grain version of these carbs is a great way to load up on your carbs before a workout, you should skip the refined grains.

Starchy Vegetables

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Starchy vegetables are another great option for a pre workout carb load, and in some cases are even comprised of more carbohydrates than whole grains. For instance a cup of corn (one serving size) has 41 grams of carbs while a half of a cup of brown rice (one serving size) only has 23 grams of carbohydrates.


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Most fruits are naturally high in fructose which is a simple carbohydrate. While loading up on only simple carbohydrates before a workout may cause a quick spike and drop in energy levels leaving you more fatigued during your workout, mixing them with complex carbs in your pre workout meals is a good way to stay balanced. The simple carbs will give you a boost of energy to start your workout strong, while the complex carbohydrates will keep you going.

Beans & Legumes

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Some of the most versatile foods can be found under the category of beans or legumes. They are considered both a protein and a vegetable thanks to their high levels of protein, antioxidants and carbohydrates. Their high levels of both fiber and starch to make up their carbohydrates make them both filling and healthy, while helping to increase your energy levels.

The Right Time For A Pre Workout Carb Load

Marathon runners, bikers and swimmers have a different system for carb loading than most people. Their system works specifically for them because they are training and conditioning their bodies to work at it’s peak performance during a single long endurance event.

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The average person does not need to follow a carb load regimen quite as intense as marathoners. That does not mean that you should not be aware of the best time to load up on your carbohydrates to take advantage of enhanced performance levels and increased muscle growth and strength.

Carb Load 90 Minutes Before Your Workout

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You want to make sure that your body has all of the necessary nutrients to run efficiently before you begin your workout so that you can make it through your entire training session without running out of energy. Ninety minutes before your workout is the ideal time to stock up on these last minute energy boosting carbohydrates. Studies show that you should eat at least of gram of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight, per hour of exercise. That essentially means that if you are planning on working out for two hours and you weigh in at 82 kilograms (180 pounds) you’ll need to consume 164 grams of carbohydrates about 90 minutes before you begin your workout.  

To Carb Load or Not To Carb Load

Carb Load Up

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Loading up on carbs before your workout is great when your goal is to lift heavier weights, run faster or increase your sports performance. There are goals that carb loading can be detrimental to though, so make sure you know what your goals are before you plan out your pre workout meals.

Skip The Carb Load

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If you want to maintain your health with a lean and toned body then a pre workout carb load may actually be doing you more harm than good. A study from the University of Texas has shown that eating carbohydrates before your workout slows your body’s fat burning process making it more difficult for you to lose body fat. This isn’t much of a concern if you aren’t looking to lose body fat but rather to gain muscle mass and strength, but when your main goal does not revolve around enhancing your performance it is an important piece of information to keep in mind.


Carb load before your workout for bigger and stronger muscles. Avoid a carb load before your workout to tone your body and reduce your overall body fat.

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