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Eating Candy During Your Workout

Is It Effective?

Posted by HMTraining - May 26th, 2015


Does candy have any benefit as an intra-workout carb? Eating candy during a workout has become very popular amongst YouTubers and the general fitness community, especially with the rise of Flexible Dieting and IIFYM. Lots of Youtubers claim that eating candy as an intra-workout carb helps boost performance and energy during an intense lifting session. This claim is total bro science...at least physiologically speaking! In this video, I give a simple, scientific explanation of what goes on in your body while you're exercising and why candy doesn’t give you a burst of energy.



Why Consider Candy?

One of the reasons why candy is consumed during a workout is because it is a simple carbohydrate. Simple carbs are digested more quickly. Complex carbs generally take longer to digest and absorb (that's why you never see lifters eating whole grain bread, or quinoa during a workout!) During exercise, carbohydrates are the primary source of fuel. After eating carbohydrates, they are broken down into glucose molecules and also converted to glycogen. Glycogen is stored in the muscle AND in the liver. During a lifting session, your muscles use this stored glycogen for energy from your muscle/ liver reserves in order to do work.


Digestion & Absorption

Food needs to undergo two processes before it is stored as glycogen and available for energy use: Digestion and Absorption. Digestion time usually varies, but for a sweet snack, like candy, it can take anywhere from 15-45 minutes. After these sugar molecules are fully digested, they need to undergo absorption into the circulatory system. In simple terms, the digested sugar molecules are sent to various parts of the body where they can be used. This process of absorption is also time-dependent.


There’s simply not enough time for your body to digest and absorb the nutrients from candy during a workout. It all comes down to simple math. If you're lifting for 60-90 minutes and you begin eating a pack of candy ~20 minutes into your workout, digestion probably won’t begin until the end of your workout. Candy does NOT need to be eaten during a workout. As long as you've eaten several meals throughout the day, you should have enough stored glycogen in your muscle cells and liver! If you're an endurance athlete, intra workout carbs are effective because you are exercising for several hours. This is one of the main reasons why marathon runners, cyclists, athletes, tennis players, etc benefit from consuming sugary snacks/drinks during training and performance events.


Candy Isn't So Sweet After All

Another reason why candy is ineffective has to do with blood flow distribution. Blood transports nutrients all around our body and is very important in digestion and absorption. At rest, skeletal muscle accounts for about 20% of total body blood flow. This means that approximately 20% of the blood in your body is being used for your muscles and 80% is used by organs (liver, intestines, etc.). Have you ever heard of “rest & digest?” This is where it comes from! As we exercise, blood is shunted more to the musculoskeletal/cardiovascular systems and less to the organ systems. The majority of blood flow and energy is sent to the muscles during exercise, especially intense exercise. With less blood available to the stomach, intestines, hepatic portal vein, and liver, digestion and absorption are drastically slowed during exercise.


Conclusion

If you feel that candy gives you the extra boost, then eat the candy! It may have a psychological benefit but be aware that this is what happens physiologically.


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MEMBER COMMENTS

Scott_Herman

How do you feel about candy as DEXTROS after training?

HMTraining

I'm all for PWO carbs, simple or complex. In the long run, I dont think it will make a significant difference on the type of carb. For satitiety, it does feel good to eat any food after an intense session!

crood

dextrose comes from fruits at least ^^

Whisper

Very interesting article Haaris! I think I know what Youtubers you are referring to! haha

HMTraining

hahaha I think we all know who I refer to, but glad you like the content!

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