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Can You Eat Junk Food and Workout? The Pros and Cons.

Junk food and sport accessories | Hurry The Food Up

Junk foods such as gummy candies, crispy treats or chocolate candy bars have seen a surge of popularity as pre-workout snacks.

Why is this? Do these previously shunned foods hold some sort of secret? Do they ruin a workout or help performance?

Lets find out.

🏋️‍♂️Understanding pre-workout snacks

First of all, I believe that it’s crucial to understand the nutrition composition of these snacks, particularly focusing on their carbohydrate content in relation to sport and not be misled by the term “junk food”.

These products will usually have a large amount of simple sugars, chiefly glucose and fructose.

These simple sugars are not just empty calories; they serve a specific purpose by providing a readily available energy source that can be advantageous before exercise.

For context, these simple sugars are the most common units of energy used by our body, and many foods, such as wholegrain rice or bananas, are broken down into these simple sugars in your intestines.

🍏The role of glucose and fructose

Glucose and fructose, the primary sugars found in these snacks, offer easily accessible energy that is quickly utilized by the body.

This can be especially beneficial in scenarios requiring immediate energy output, such as high-intensity interval training or long-distance running.

Advantages of simple sugar snacks

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  • Quick Energy: The low fiber, fat, and protein content of these snacks facilitates rapid digestion and absorption, meaning your body can utilise the energy more promptly. This rapid energy release is crucial for athletes who need immediate fuel for short, intense bursts of activity or sustained endurance performance (for example for exercise longer than 90 minutes).
  • Reduced Gastrointestinal Discomfort: Opting for snacks with low fiber content can significantly reduce the risk of stomach discomfort during exercise, an important consideration for athletes in sports that cause jarring movements, such as running or high-impact aerobics.
  • Liver Glycogen Restoration: In the morning, the body’s live glycogen stores (the body’s store of carbohydrates) are typically depleted. Consuming simple sugars can quickly restore liver glycogen, which is vital for maintaining blood sugar levels and supporting energy needs during early morning workouts.
  • Meeting High Caloric Needs: For athletes undergoing high volume training schedules, these calorie-dense snacks can be an effective way to meet their elevated caloric requirements without feeling overly full, ensuring they have enough energy to sustain their performance.

Disadvantages of simple sugar snacks

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  • Nutritional Balance: Although these snacks provide a quick energy boost, they lack the vitamins, minerals, and other micronutrients found in whole foods. Relying too heavily on them can lead to nutritional gaps, underscoring the importance of a balanced diet.
  • Lack of Satiety: The immediate energy they provide comes with a downside: these foods are not filling, which can lead to overeating and an unwanted caloric surplus, making it challenging to manage weight and body composition effectively.
  • Oral Health: The high sugar content in these snacks can also pose a risk to oral health, promoting tooth decay and other dental issues, especially if consumed frequently and without proper dental hygiene practices.

A Balanced Perspective

The decision to include these foods as part of a pre-workout regimen should not hinge on the notion of earning or justifying their consumption through exercise.

I do not believe that anyone should have to “earn” the food that they eat, due to the increased risk of developing disordered eating around exercise and nutrition.

Instead, it’s about fostering a nuanced understanding of food’s role in exercise performance, focusing on the context of their consumption and the importance of moderation.

Developing a healthy relationship with food involves recognizing its nutritional value and its ability to support exercise goals, without falling into the trap of labeling foods as strictly “good” or “bad.”

Embracing a balanced dietary approach, prioritizing nutrient-dense foods while also understanding the strategic role that simple sugars can play in certain training contexts, is essential for optimizing both health and athletic performance.


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