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Let’s start with the obvious. Whether you’re pounding the pavement, strafing a five-a-side pitch or simply hitting the weights, your body needs carbs to perform at its best. When scientists at Loughborough University investigated the effect of depriving runners of their primary fuel source before cardio training the results, as you might expect, were emphatic. Men who consumed a high carb diet for seven days before a 30K treadmill time trial were 10% faster than those who didn’t.
If, on the other hand, the purpose of your training is to add muscle rather than shave seconds from your PB, the science also supports carbing up before throwing on your kit. University of Queensland scientists subjected strength athletes to a two-day carb restriction program before undertaking three sets of squats, then had them perform the same exercises without curtailing their carbs. Again, the results were clear: training without carbs led to a significant reduction in the amount of squats the athletes were able to perform.
In short, the science is unequivocal. Less carbs = poorer performance. Researchers at Loma Linda University Medical Center in California even found fuelling up with carbs before a workout reduces your chances of succumbing to illness. Loading up before exercise increases the levels of cytokines in your body, which are responsible for carrying signals between the cells of your immune system.
And yet and yet… Despite the inarguable fact that carbs before training improves performance, personally I cut them out before a training session. Let me explain why.