Ah, sugar. Many people think it's the devil when it comes to leading a healthier lifestyle, but TBH, it doesn't deserve such a blanket stereotype. In fact, my brother recently told me that when he eats sugar before a workout — in the form of an indulgent, heaping stack of chocolate chip pancakes, BTW — he has a killer workout every. Freaking. Time. I mean, if it's going to give me loads of energy to slay my #GymGoals it can't be all that bad, right?
For starters, when you talk about "sugar," that can mean a lot of different things. It's not just that grainy white stuff you put in your coffee, FYI. There are five major types of sugar that your body uses in different ways, especially if you lead a more active lifestyle and work out on the reg. Glucose, fructose, maltose, sucrose, and lactose are all types of sugar that your body absorbs for overall energy, challenging workouts, and everyday functions — more on that in a bit.
Your body can handle all of these different types of sugar in moderate amounts, and there's no need to eliminate any of them entirely from your diet (unless you have a specific health condition, like diabetes, or your doctor otherwise specifically tells you to do so).
And, interestingly enough, sugar is actually essential to fuel up for exercise, whether you're lifting weights or heading to your favorite cycling class.
According to Men's Fitness, an inadequate amount of sugars and carbohydrates in your system before a workout can lead to intense lethargy, as well as inevitable fatigue and burnout during your sweat sesh. Now, I'm not saying that you should chow down on a couple of donuts every time you're getting ready to hit the gym, but having a moderate amount of sugar before you get moving has undeniable benefits, and it's even partially necessary for your body to do its thing.
The type of sugar you're consuming (and what you're pairing it with) makes a heck of a difference, so take notes, my friend. Glucose is found in most carbs (like bread and fruit), and your body burns this stuff most efficiently. If you're opting for toast or a banana before a run, try pairing it with nut butter or yogurt for long-lasting stamina.
Fructose, on the other hand, is also found in fruit, but also veggies, honey, and juice. This is the stuff that your liver breaks down before it travels to your muscles. Veggies and hummus would be a great example of a fructose-filled, pre-workout snack.
The only type of sugar you should be a bit wary of, before a workout at least, is sucrose — aka table sugar, and the stuff you'll find in cookies, pastries, and the like.
According to findings from a 2013 study, there's actually an important role for sucrose in fueling intense bouts of exercise, so a gooey, delicious brownie before the gym isn't necessarily going to counteract your athletic efforts. But, again, moderation is key for adequate performance in any context.
As far as maltose and lactose are concerned, neither are worth worrying too much about. For one thing, maltose is the type of sugar found in beer, my friends, and uh, drunk workouts aren't exactly recommended most of the time, so there's that. As for lactose, that's the sugar found in cheese, milk, and anything dairy-based. Depending on how your stomach feels, these things can be great to eat before your workout, but if you're sensitive to dairy, be mindful of consuming anything with heavy amounts of lactose before the gym.
Any of these sugars are totally fine to consume before you hit the gym, but if you're opting for a sweeter snack or simple carbs, make sure you pair them with something that will make them burn more slowly in your body.
This is important because, if you chowed down on a plain bagel before a sweat sesh, for example, your blood sugar would drop super quickly, and you'd be dragging your feet in between deadlifts — no bueno.
Instead, try pairing a bagel with peanut butter for a more fueling pre-workout snack, or if you're opting for a piece of chocolate or a granola bar, add a handful of your favorite nuts to those bad boys for an optimal boost of energy.
Bottom line: While sugar often gets a bad rap, it's actually fine before the gym, so live your life and eat that donut, girl.