Should You Have Carbs Before You Work Out?

Sugar is supposed to be bad, right? Isn’t the goal of exercise to rid yourself of all the damage done by eating carbohydrates in excess?

While it may seem counterintuitive, the reality is that a little carbohydrate and sugar can fuel your workout, especially when it involves high-intensity, long-duration exercise. A modest intake of carbohydrates can also speed up your recovery time, helping you get back in the gym sooner.

Carbs Improve Training, Adaptation, and Recovery

Carbs have attracted a lot of attention from exercise physiologists, who aim to help athletes during training and competition (1). These scientists generally agree that consuming a moderate amount of easily absorbed carbohydrates — like simple sugars — prior to, during, and immediately after exercise can improve performance, adaptation, and recovery.

This method works because it allows the body to sustain high carbohydrate availability in muscle glycogen stores and blood glucose to fuel the demands of exercise. When these carbohydrates are depleted during a workout, it can quickly lead to fatigue, reduction in work rate, impaired skill and concentration, and an increased perception of effort (1).

In summary, not getting enough carbs before, during, and after your workout makes it harder for you to achieve the results you want from your efforts. Regardless, recreational athletes regularly make the mistake of failing to meet carbohydrate recommendations (2).

The Role of Carbs in AMPED Nitro

Despite the wealth of scientific evidence, many question whether it’s wise to include sugar and carbohydrate in a pre-workout product such as AMPED™ Nitro. The multifunctional supplement contains about 5 grams of sugar alongside performance-enhancing ergogenic aids like Nitrosigine®, creatine, and natural caffeine from green tea.

The amount of sugar in AMPED Nitro is quite small in comparison to what is stored in metabolically active tissue, like the tissue in muscle and the liver (3, 4). One hour of intense exercise can potentially burn six times the amount of carbohydrate energy found in AMPED Nitro (4).

The evidence suggests that not only is the amount of sugar in AMPED Nitro minor, but there may also be room for additional carbohydrate intake to improve exercise further. Extra carbohydrates can be achieved easily enough with intake of other sports drinks such as an e+™ shot or AMPED Hydrate.

Figure 1. Based on an average 70 kg male athlete. Modified from “Clinical Sports Nutrition: 5th Edition” by Louise Burke and Vicki Deakin.

Carbohydrate Recommendations for Exercise

Carbohydrate guidelines for athletes are based largely on an athlete’s body size and their training duration and frequency. Generally, the rule is about 3 to 5 grams per kilogram per day for athletes exercising at a low intensity, 5 to 7 grams per kilogram per day for athletes who get moderate exercise (about one hour per day), and up to 7 to 10 grams per kilogram per day for endurance athletes.

A good practice is to time the intake and amount of these carbohydrates to improve carbohydrate availability during exercise. The general guideline given to athletes is to consume about 1 to 4 grams per kilogram about one to four hours before exercise (3).

Then, small amounts (around 5 to 10 grams) can be taken just prior to and during training to sustain high-intensity exercise. The recommendation increases to 30 to 60 grams per hour for endurance training and stop-and-start sports like soccer and basketball.

The amount of carbohydrates you should consume before a workout depends on your goals. However, the modest amount of sugar found in AMPED Nitro and other Isagenix products won’t interfere with weight loss. Not only does sugar make the product taste better without the use of artificial sweeteners and flavors, but it can also can help fuel your exercise and keep you on track with your health goals.


  1. Thomas DT, Erdman KA, Burke LM. Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine: Nutrition and Athletic Performance. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2016.
  2. Masson G, Lamarche B. Many non-elite multisport endurance athletes do not meet sports nutrition recommendations for carbohydrates. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2016.
  3. Burke LM, Cox GR, Cummings NK, Desbrow B. Guidelines for daily carbohydrate intake: do athletes achieve them? / Instructions pour une alimentation riche en glucides: les athletes parviennent-ils a prendre les doses prescrites. Sport Med. 2001.
  4. Burke L & Deakin V. Clinical Sports Nutrition, 5th Ed. McGraw-Hill Australia, 2015.

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Why Nitrate-Rich Shots Work for Cardiovascular Fitness

Studies have consistently shown that using nitrate-rich vegetable concentrates or shots, such as AMPED™ NOx, can improve cardiovascular fitness and exercise performance.

Now a group of scientists from the Netherlands suggests that there’s an obvious reason for these performance benefits—we’re just not getting enough vegetables in our diets daily.

In a recent review paper, researchers pointed out that our main supply of dietary nitrates comes from either green leafy or root vegetables, yet most of us don’t receive enough to see benefits (1). “The proposed benefits of dietary nitrate supplementation may very well be observed because a healthy diet is not yet achieved in most people,” the authors reported. They reasoned that the reported benefits of nitrate supplementation are likely observed because habitual nitrate intake is so low.

Despite the accumulating evidence supporting the health benefits of consuming more vegetables, the actual vegetable intake remains well below the levels proposed in multiple dietary guidelines (2). In fact, the average intake levels of vegetables has declined markedly over the past 30 years worldwide (3).

The consumption of sufficient amounts of vegetables is a cornerstone of a healthy diet and has been shown to contribute to the prevention of chronic metabolic diseases (4). There are several different classes of biologically active compounds in vegetables that impart beneficial effects, including vitamins, trace minerals, and dietary fibers to name a few (4).  Some of the most healthful vegetables, including spinach, arugula, lettuce, and beetroot contain high levels of nitrate (5).

While not a replacement for vegetable intake, supplementation with dietary nitrate has some notable advantages. Dietary nitrate supplementation has become a popular area of research with several publications reporting benefits to the cardiovascular system (6). It has also been reported to enhance muscle efficiency and fatigue resistance in both healthy and unhealthy individuals (1).

Consuming nitrates from food or dietary supplements increase the bioavailability of nitric oxide (NO) in the blood stream. NO has multiple functions in the body that may influence health and performance, including the regulation of blood flow, muscle contractility, glucose and calcium homeostasis, and mitochondrial respiration and biogenesis (7-9

In comparison to synthetic versions of nitrates, such as nitrate salts, those found in vegetables such as beetroot juice, spinach, celery, and arugula are found to exceed the effects of the same dose of sodium nitrate (10). This effect could be attributed to the presence of various polyphenols and antioxidants found in vegetables (10).

Knowing that vegetable-sourced nitrates had superior benefits compared to synthetic nitrates, Isagenix developed AMPED NOx with a concentrated nitrate-rich vegetable extract including beets, red spinach, and celery.

Additionally, the concentrated shot includes polyphenol-rich fruit extracts. Fruit polyphenols in AMPED NOx function as antioxidants and help support blood flow by assisting in the conversion of nitrates to nitric oxide. These polyphenols not only work well with nitrates, but also support cardiovascular health through their actions on endothelial function (11-13).


  1. Van der Avoort CMT, Van Loon LJC, Hopman MTE et al. Increasing vegetable intake to obtain the health promoting and ergogenic effects of dietary nitrate. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2018 Mar 20.
  2. Hall JN, Moore S, Harper SB et al. Global variability in fruit and vegetable consumption. Am J Prev Med. 2009 May;36(5):402-409.e5.
  3. Murphy MM, Barraj LM, Spungen JH et al. Global assessment of select phytonutrient intakes by level of fruit and vegetable consumption. Br J Nutr. 2014 Sep 28;112(6):1004-18.
  4. Van Duyn MA, Pivonka E. Overview of the health benefits of fruit and vegetable consumption for the dietetics professional: selected literature. J Am Diet Assoc. 2000 Dec;100(12):1511-21.
  5. Gangolli SD, van den Brandt PA, Feron VJ et al. Nitrate, nitrite and N-nitroso compounds. Eur J Pharmacol. 1994 Nov 1;292(1):1-38.
  6. Stanaway L, Rutherfurd-Markwick K, Page R et al. Performance and Health Benefits of Dietary Nitrate Supplementation in Older Adults: A Systematic Review. Nutrients. 2017 Oct 27;9(11). pii: E1171.
  7. Jonvik KL, Nyakayiru J, Pinckaers PJ et al. Nitrate-Rich Vegetables Increase Plasma Nitrate and Nitrite Concentrations and Lower Blood Pressure in Healthy Adults. J Nutr. 2016 May;146(5):986-93.
  8. Cooper CE, Giulivi C. Nitric oxide regulation of mitochondrial oxygen consumption II: Molecular mechanism and tissue physiology. Am J Physiol Cell Physiol. 2007 Jun;292(6):C1993-2003.
  9. Dejam A, Hunter CJ, Schechter AN et al. Emerging role of nitrite in human biology. Blood Cells Mol Dis. 2004 May-Jun;32(3):423-9.
  10. Stamler JS, Meissner G. Physiology of nitric oxide in skeletal muscle. Physiol Rev. 2001 Jan;81(1):209-237.
  11. Barona J, Blesso CN, Andersen CJ et al. Grape consumption increases anti-inflammatory markers and upregulates peripheral nitric oxide synthase in the absence of dyslipidemias in men with metabolic syndrome. Nutrients. 2012 Dec 6; 4(12):1945-57.
  12. Li SH, Tian HB, Zhao HJ et al. The acute effects of grape polyphenols supplementation on endothelial function in adults: meta-analyses of controlled trials. PLoS One. 2013 Jul 24;8(7): e69818.
  13. Ignarro LJ, Byrns RE, Sumi D et al. Pomegranate juice protects nitric oxide against oxidative destruction and enhances the biological actions of nitric oxide. Nitric Oxide. 2006 Sep; 15(2):93-102.

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