Should You Have Carbs Intra-Workout?

In recent years the idea of eating or drinking carbs during a workout, particularly high in sugar, has come on as offering possible performance benefits. Athletes eat candy like Sour Patch Kids and gummy worms, and drink dextrose with protein or just plain old Gatorade. This isn’t just endurance athletes, but also spills over into the bodybuilding and strength sports. Sugars like dextrose and those found in Gatorade break down very quickly, possibly giving an energy boost to those that ingest them intra-workout.

Research has shown that they may offer performance benefits for certain athletes, but not in every sport. Your level, sport, and the intensity of training sessions will be a great indicator of whether or not you need them.

Who Should NOT Have Them

Beginning athletes that are in the resistance sports such as weightlifting, powerlifting, and bodybuilding do not need them generally. It is unlikely that these sessions are lasting over 60-90 minutes, because a beginner just does not need to be in the gym that long.

Most athletes with a session that lasts for less than an hour. Unless it is non stop the entire time, a short workout doesn’t pull enough glycogen out of the liver in order to need an intra-workout carb. However, this is not the case if it is a high intensity workout for the entirety of the time.

Who Should Have Them

Research states that endurance athletes with long, grueling workouts benefit much more from ingesting intra-workout carbs. Due to long workouts that deplete glycogen stores a very large amount, the carbs are utilized much faster and more effectively than in a shorter workout time.

Resistance athletes with workouts lasting over 90 minutes in time. Any workout over 90 minutes where lifting over and over has an incredible amount of volume, whether it is in total lbs moved or reps done. The accumulated amount adds up, and this makes it a perfect time to utilize intra-workout carbs.

High level CrossFit athletes. A large amount of CrossFit workouts last under an hour, and this negates the benefit of intra-workout carbs. However, as the athlete’s workouts increase in duration to include more weightlifting and powerlifting, along with gymnastics; it is almost impossible to fit all of this into an hour long session. The longer, more intense the session, the more likely you need carbs.


If you’re just starting out, don’t worry about getting carbs in during your lift, but if you’ve been lifting awhile and need a little bit of an extra push, there is no reason not to try them out.

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