Types of Carbs to Avoid Before Working Out

Lauren Del Turco
by Lauren Del Turco
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Types of Carbs to Avoid Before Working Out

You know by now carbohydrates are an essential component of a good pre-workout snack or meal. After all, carbohydrate-rich foods provide your muscles with easy-to-use energy, so you can fly through every round of treadmill sprints or push through that last set of squats.

What you might not know, though, is certain types of pre-workout carbs may serve your workouts better than others. In fact, though totally healthy and unproblematic for most people, a certain group of carbs, called FODMAPs, can backfire on some exercisers when eaten before a workout.

Here’s what you need to know, so you can adjust your pre-workout fuel accordingly.

WHAT ARE FODMAPs, AGAIN?

Quick refresher: FODMAPs is an acronym for:

  • Fermentable
  • Oligosaccharides,
  • Disaccharides,
  • Monosaccharides and
  • Polyols

Yes, that’s a lot of syllables — but there’s a pretty simple explanation here. “FODMAPs are types of carbohydrates that ferment and lead to gas production during the digestive process,” explains Ryan D. Andrews, MS, principal nutritionist for Precision Nutrition. “They can also draw water into the GI tract.”

For some people, this is no big deal. In fact, plenty of people eat FODMAPs without noticing a single thing.

However, for people with more sensitive digestive systems (and especially those diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS), eating FODMAPs can lead to digestive pain or discomfort, diarrhea and/or constipation.

Here’s the struggle: FODMAPs are found in loads of healthy foods (like certain fruits and vegetables) and can actually be good for your gut microbiome, according to Andrews. If you’re sensitive, though, the negatives may outweigh the positives.

HOW FODMAPs MIGHT MESS WITH YOUR WORKOUTS

If you don’t have a digestive care in the world, you probably don’t need to think much about how FODMAPs factor into your pre-workout fuel.

If you have a more sensitive system, though, eating high amounts — or certain types — of FODMAPs before lacing up your sneakers might leave you with symptoms like gas, bloating and abdominal pain, Andrews suggests.

Sound like you? You might want to reconsider the types of carbs you munch on in that pre-workout snack.

YOUR PRE-EXERCISE SNACKS MIGHT CONTAIN THESE FODMAPs

Sad but true for sensitive stomachs: Many popular pre-workout foods contain FODMAPs. A few Andrews recommends looking out for:

  • Fructans and oligosaccharides: dried fruits, chicory root and inulin
    (common in protein bars and powders), watermelon, cashews, barley, rye, wheat
  • Disaccharides: cow’s milk, yogurt, cottage cheese
  • Monosaccharides: apples, mangoes, figs, pears, sugar snap peas, honey,
    agave
  • Polyols: apples, apricots, blackberries, peaches, sugar alcohol-
    containing products (protein bars, protein powders, “sugar-free” snacks)

See some familiar foods in there? Many foods exercisers routinely turn to for quick fuel or nutrition before hitting the gym (looking at you, bars and fruit) may do sensitive digestive systems more harm than good.

FODMAPs-FREE PRE-WORKOUT FUEL

If you frequently experience digestive issues during your workouts, consider switching out your pre-workout snack for something FODMAP-free, Andrews suggests.

A few of his go-to options:

  • a banana with peanut butter
  • an orange and a handful of macadamia nuts
  • coconut yogurt (honey- and agave-free) granola
  • oatmeal with pumpkin and pecans

Still on the stomach struggle bus at the gym? Check-in with your doctor or a registered dietitian to investigate whether there’s a more serious digestive issue at play.

Power through your workout by snacking first on quality carbs and protein. Get ideas from our Pre-Workout recipe collection by tapping “Recipe Discovery” in the MyFitnessPal app.

About the Author

Lauren Del Turco
Lauren Del Turco

Lauren is a writer, editor and content creator with a deep passion for all things health and wellness. Her work has been featured in Men’s Health, Women’s Health, Cosmopolitan, SHAPE, Prevention and more. A self-proclaimed veggie-lover and nature-seeker, Lauren spends her free time reading, hiking and coaching at her local group training gym.

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