Intra Training Carbs- When To Have Them and Why They Are Important

You’ve been at the gym for over an hour. You warmed up, and did your programmed strength training. Now you want to stay for the Crossfit class and do the metcon.

You had a snack of a banana an hour before you started your first workout, but you notice you’re feeling a little tired. This is when it might be time to eat some carbs.

If you’re a crossfitter or Olympic weight lifter, carbs are your best friend (or at least in my opinion they should be).

Without going too deep down the rabbit hole of energy pathways, etc, let me explain that Crossfit and weight lifting are carbohydrate dependent sports.

When we train (lift weights, sprint, box jump, do shorter than 30-minute metcons) we use carbs as our primary fuel source.

This is how our bodies are DESIGNED to work. So, if you spend lots of time in the gym, its OKAY to replenish this source often.

Want to be faster on your power cleans? Make sure your body has the carbs it needs to create that power. Want to go full HAM on Fran? Get yourself some readily available energy.

A healthy level of carbs also ensures you can recover between sessions- ie between your lifting and your metcon, AND having carbs onboard helps you get that protein you are drinking into those tired muscles.

If my athletes spend more than an hour training, I ask them to consume at least 30 to 60 grams of easily digested carbs mid-session (intra-training).

The carb sources can come from whole foods like a banana and a perfect bar, or something mixed in water- like dextrose, Fuel-5, or Carbolean. This will vary on the athlete and what they can stomach/digest.  

You should try different combinations to see what works best for you. Personally, I like Fuel-5 during my metcons, and between sessions I eat a few squeezie pouches of baby food, or a banana.

Here is the general guideline of carb intake surrounding training:

  • 60 to 90 minutes before training 30 to 60 grams of easily digested carbs (white rice, fruit, toast, carb supplement)
  • Training for 60 minutes or less- just have carbs post training (another 30 to 60 grams of whole food easily digested- ie rice, potatoes, toast)
  • Training LONGER than 60 minutes- you want 30 to 60 grams for every additional 90 minutes of training (actual training- moving- not overall time in the gym!). Then post training eat another 30 to 60 grams of whole food carbs.

The variance of the 30 to 60 grams is based on age, gender, and intensity of the workout.

If you’re doing a very high intensity workout for 20 minutes, or doing a sub 3 minute Fran, you will most likely use the available carbs (glucose) in your bloodstream and then tap into your glycogen stores (these are your bodies “stored” carbohydrates). You want to replenish them as well as give yourself more fuel for the next piece.

Try incorporating this strategy into your longer sessions and see how it improves your performance!

Like what you read? Check out my Nutrition 101 Ebook– full of tips and guidance to help lean out, fuel your workouts, sleep like a boss, and feel amazing!

Want some help dialing in how you eat? Check out what I offer for Nutrition Coaching!  

My mission is to help everyone I can become the healthiest, strongest versions of themselves. I am a Crossfit coach, athlete, Health and Nutrition coach, Movement Rehab Specialist, and a grad student completing my masters in Kinesiology with a focus on integrative wellness.

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