Ok, confession time! My wife recently made the most amazing cinnamon buns. I had a hard run in about an hour and the family was sitting down to enjoy this gooey greatness so I convinced myself that sugar is a good thing before a workout and that I should prioritize this “family time.” Needless to say, that workout did not go as well as it could have.
Though I would not recommend dense cinnamon buns as a pre-workout snack, there is some value in sugar before and during workouts. Sugar is a good energy source for intense and/or long workouts because in its simplest form, it is carbohydrate which is the body’s primary fuel source. When I say intense and/or long workouts, I am referring to workouts longer than 90 minutes or shorter workouts that are very intense. This means that most kids do not need Gatorade for their weekend soccer (aka daisy-picking) game! Outside of workouts, sugar – particularly added sugar – should be largely avoided outside of natural sources. This is especially important because 75% of Americans eat more sugar than they should according to the Dept of health and Human Resources.
If your workout does call for a little sugar-fueling, it is important to consume that sugar within 60 minutes of the workout – closer being better – so that it will be burned as fuel. If possible, it is best to get your sugar from whole food, natural resources rather than stuff like candy bars (or cinnamon buns) as you’ll get other nutrients such as vitamins and minerals as well.
Outside of workouts, try to avoid sugar as best possible. To do this, you might look to sugar substitutes such as aspartame, saccharin, and sucralose though that would be a mistake. These should be avoided as they are linked to weight gain, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, heart attacks, and stroke. Though there is still a lack of long-term testing, natural sugar substitutes such as Stevia do seem to be better. Instead, I recommend natural sources like fruit to curb that sugar craving.
I hope this little advice will go a long way to helping you know the why, how, and when to fueling your workouts with sugar.