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August 16, 2004 7:30 PM   Subscribe

My gym gives out energy bars for free! Should I eat them?

I work out with a fair intensity -- about an hour of serious cardio a day, plus weights every other day -- and one of the guys at the desk in the gym told me that I should a) eat a high-carbohydrate energy bar before I work out, to increase my stamina, and b) eat a high-protein energy bar after I work out, to help build muscle. This sounds like an awful lot of eatin' to me -- but it seems like the entire fitness industry concurs with the desk guy.

Should I eat these things? Both of them? Won't I just get fat? Am I a victim of Big Energy Bar propaganda?
posted by josh to Food & Drink (6 answers total)
They are free???? Wow!

I would eat one Post Work Out for sure.

The hour window after you work out is prime time for eating to refuel the muscles.

The pre-work out one I would consider optional. If you do eat it, it will take almost as long as your work out to digest and be available for use, so unless you eat it 30 mins before, I can't imagine it would help all that much. A pre work out beverage would be better due to a faster absorption rate.
posted by jopreacher at 8:01 PM on August 16, 2004

That depends, not least on the composition of these "energy bars".

But in order:
- it's up to your conscience
- if they contain enough energy to push you over maintenance levels, then yes they will
- you don't have to be a victim, even if Desk Guy is. My reading of things with some shreds of research cited is that yes, some carbs beforehand helps (as will caffeine) and protein uptake is increased immediately after lifting.

I would think that a banana beforehand and a glass of lowfat milk or a shake after would work as well, maybe better. And they won't taste like artificial cardboard.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 8:01 PM on August 16, 2004

Response by poster: Awesome -- sounds like I should pass on the pre-workout bar, and have the post-workout one, or a tuna sandwich or something similar.

Thanks everyone!
posted by josh at 8:30 PM on August 16, 2004

*blush* thank you trharlan. I wouldn't dignify my eclectic reading with the name "research": at best it's consistently filtered prejudice.

My main source of cynicism on this sort of thing is, where folks have a kind of aggregate wisdom and will call bullshit on anything. Somewhat massaged and preprocessed facts I take from ThinkMuscle and Brian Haycock's site. Relevant article would be here.

His conclusion:

Pre- and post-exercise nutrition is critical if one wants to maximize the anabolic effects of exercise. The pre-exercise meal should be high in a quickly digestible protein. This will ensure high delivery of amino acids to the muscle tissue. Carbohydrates can also be taken in to minimize glycogen loss and suppress catabolic hormones. Fat should be avoided pre-exercise unless the exercise is for endurance.

The post exercise meal should consist of carbohydrate, protein and perhaps a small amount of essential fats, in a form that is easily and quickly digestible. There are many meal replacement products that fit the bill. Just pick the one you like the most. Don't worry about sugar content because right after a workout, fat storage is not a big issue. A liquid meal is the most practical method of post-exercise feeding although it is probably not essential. The ratio of macronutrients depends somewhat on the nature of the training session. An emphasis on high glycemic carbs, complete readily digestible proteins such as whey, egg, or high quality casein, and essential fats such as fish or flax oil will meet the criteria for an effective post exercise meal.

Which I would summarise as: if you want to get big or at least not lose muscle, drink a decent protein shake before and after. A banana, some tuna and a carton of low-fat milk will probably work almost as well.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 10:09 PM on August 16, 2004

It should be mentioned that you can eat whatever you want before you work out, it won't have of the effects you want (unless you ingest speed). The energy used in working out comes from what you ate about 12 hours ago or so.
posted by bob sarabia at 9:35 AM on August 17, 2004

IMO, we westerners eat so many carb-based foods in our daily lives that it is highly unlikely that there is any need for additional carbs post-workout.

Easily-digested proteins, with appropriate amino acid ratios, would probably be quite useful in growing/maintaining the muscle masses.

Note that I actually no almost nothing about nutrition and exercise. :-)
posted by five fresh fish at 10:55 AM on August 17, 2004

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