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Pre-workout Nutrition/
Pure Muscle Carbs

By Gary F. Zeolla

In my God-given Foods Eating Plan book, I mention about consuming a post-workout drink immediately after my powerlifting workouts. I give the ingredients as follows:

Purified water – 15 ounces
Brown rice syrup – 2 tablespoons
Blended protein powder – 1 scoop
Extra-virgin olive oil – 1 tablespoon
Cocoa powder – 1 teaspoon (p.232).

The values for this drink are as follows:

Calories: 392
Carbs: 38g (40%)
Protein: 25g (25%)
Fat: 15g (35%).

As I discuss in my book, the olive oil is included as monounsaturated fasts elevate testosterone levels. Also, the fat keeps the carbs from causing too much of an insulin spike. It should be noted that the brown rice syrup does not dissolve well in chilled water. As such, to make this drink, I would use lukewarm water, but then chill the drink before consumption.

New Schedule

Since my book was published, my schedule has changed some. I now drink a pre-workout drink about half an hour before I work out. I then take four grams of glutamine immediately post-workout, shower, and then eat dinner.

Initially, I drank this same drink, except I used tea instead water to mix it with (for the caffeine and antioxidants), so I did not use the cocoa powder. I also only used about 8 ounces of water to brew the tea as 15 ounces is just too much pre-workout. I will brew the tea for about five minutes, then pour it into a shaker cup and add the other ingredients while it is still warm. That way, the brown rice syrup dissolves easily.

I also will add four grams of creatine to the pre-workout drink. But that should not be added ahead of time as creatine degrades if left in water, so I add the creatine immediately before consumption.

Hypoglycemia and Different Carb Sources

In December of 2007, I was diagnosed with reactive hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Follow the link for details on this condition. But simply, when I consume carbs, especially high glycemic carbs, my blood sugar will rise more than for most people about half an hour after eating, but then it will crash down too low an hour after that.

With this condition, one concern I had was keeping my blood sugar from dropping too low by the end of my workouts. Normal blood sugar after eating is 70-120 mg/ dl, but I have found it is generally best if my blood sugar does not spike much over 100. If it does, it almost always drops below 70 an hour later. Testing my response to this drink, it would spike my blood sugar into the 90s in the half hour before I worked out. Then after my workouts, my blood glucose would be in high 60s. That is a little low, but not too bad considering.

But I experimented to see if some other carb source would give better control. I kept the amount of oil and protein powder the same and used iso-caloric amounts of the carb source. First I tried maltodextrin, NOW's Carbo Gain to be exact. It contains: "100% Pure Maltodextrin from Corn." Maltodextrin is rated as being very high glycemic. And in fact, this product spiked my blood glucose to over 100, then it dropped into the low 60s.

I then tried Rice Oligodextrin. I mention this product in my book. This is a specialty product from ProteinFactory.com. It is advertised as being low glycemic. But my glucose readings were about the same as for maltodextrin. So it is in reality high glycemic. I also mention OutMuscle in my book, also available from ProteinFactory.com. But for some reason, it tends to give me an upset stomach, so I knew it wouldn't work pre-workout.

But then I tried honey. I recommend it in my book due to its high antioxidant content. But it produced the same spike and crash as maltodextrin. Then I tried molasses. I recommend it as a sweetener due to it being the only sweetener that actually contains a significant amount of nutrients, especially iron and calcium. But its glycemic response was the same as honey, and it tasted awful as well. But it should be noted, that smaller amounts of honey and molasses, say using honey instead of jelly on a peanut butter sandwich, are not problematic blood sugar-wise.

Using Bananas

Later I tried something completely different. But for this pre-workout drink, you will need to use a blender or Vitamix:

Purified water – 8 ounces
Bananas - 1 large or 2 small
Blended protein powder – 1 scoop
Peanut butter – 1 tablespoon

This recipe only spiked my blood sugar into the upper 80s before my workout, and then it only dropped to the low 70s after my workout. I also tried just eating the banana(s), while drinking a glass of protein powder with olive oil. It only caused a rise of my blood sugar into the mid 70s, but then it stayed there until after my workout. Therefore, using bananas kept my blood sugar from dropping through the course of the workout better than anything else I tried. And the bananas seemed to digest just fine with only eating them half an hour before the workout. This is all not surprising considering the following:

Bananas contain three natural sugars - sucrose, fructose and glucose combined with fiber. A banana gives an instant, sustained and substantial boost of energy. Research has proven that just two bananas provide enough energy for a strenuous 90-minute workout. No wonder the banana is the number one fruit with the world's leading athletes (Bananas)

Bananas are also high in potassium, an electrolyte that is lost in sweat, so that is another advantage in consuming a banana or two pre-workout. On hot days, I’ll also add a dash or two of salt as sodium is also lost in sweat. However, with the bananas, I felt sluggish at the start of my workout. This is possibly because there was not enough of a blood sugar spike or because the bananas had not yet digested sufficiently.

Then I tried one tablespoon of brown rice syrup and one medium banana. That spiked my blood sugar somewhat more than just bananas, and it dropped more afterwards. But I felt great throughout my workout. Therefore, the mixture of brown rice syrup and bananas seemed to work best when both my blood sugar and workout performance are considered.

I also tried using other fruit instead of bananas, like a large peach or a couple of medium sized plums. And that worked just about as well as a banana. But the difference would be that a banana would be the easiest and quickest to digest.

Also note that using banana or other fruit would only be good pre-workout. It would not be good post-workout as the fructose in the bananas would not be effective for muscle glycogen replenishment. Much better would be the drink with the brown rice syrup as it contains carbs that are all effective for muscle-glycogen replenishment. This issue is discussed at length in my book.

Using Pure Muscle Carbs

Later I came across a completely different product, Ultimate Nutrition's Pure Muscle Carbs. It is an all-natural product and is available from Amazon. The ingredients are: Specially Processed Complex Carbohydrates Extracted From Grain Sources, Crystalline Fructose, Citric Acid, Natural Fruit Punch Flavor, And Natural Beet Powder (For Color).

Using my original recipe but one protein powder sized scoop of this product instead of the brown rice syrup produced an interesting response. My blood sugar spiked to near 100 before my workout, but then it only dropped to 91 after my workout. That means, it kept my blood sugar rather stable throughout my workout. When I increased the amount to 1-1/2 scoops, my blood sugar spiked to over 120. But then it only dropped to the mid 90s after my workout. As such, it would seem that even at higher amounts, this product does not cause a "reactive" drop in blood sugar. I also feel energized throughout my workout. Later I tried just half a scoop of the Pure Muscle Carbs along with a small banana. And that worked very well also, both in regards to blood sugar and how I felt throughout my workout.

What's interesting though is an Internet friend contacted Ultimate Nutrition, asking if the Pure Muscle Carbs product was gluten free. Gluten is found in the protein of wheat, and some people such as her are sensitive to it. Since this product is "pure carbs" I doubted it would have gluten even if the grain source was wheat. But the response she got back was, "The first ingredient is maltodextrin from corn source." Corn is gluten free, so this product should be okay for those sensitive to gluten. But in regards to this article, this means the "complex carbohydrates" in the Pure Muscle Carbs are actually the same as in NOW's Carbo Gain.

However, I'm not sure why the Pure Muscle Carbs gives such a better glycemic response. Fructose is very low glycemic, so maybe that is moderating the glycemic response. Or maybe the corn carbs are processed differently. But whatever the case, it would seem the combination of a banana and a tablespoon of brown rice syrup, or a scoop of Pure Muscle Carbs, or half a scoop of the Pure Muscle Carbs with a banana will all work well for a pre-workout drink.

However, the Pure Muscle Carbs are more convenient than the brown rice syrup as you do not need to be concerned about the water being warm for it to dissolve. Therefore, all the ingredients, including the creatine, can be placed in a shaker cup ahead of time and then cold water added when it is time to drink it.

Label Information

It must be noted that there is a problem with the label information for the Pure Muscle Carbs. It is given as follows:

Serving Size – 2 Scoops (55g)
Servings Per Container – 23

Amount Per Serving
Calories 208
Calories From Fat 0
% Daily Value*
Total Fat – 0g – 0%
Saturated Fat – 0g – 0%
Cholesterol – 0mg – 0%
Potassium – 0mg – 0%
Sodium – 35mg – 1%
Total Carbohydrates – 52g – 17%
Dietary Fiber – 0g – 0%
Sugars – 11g
Protein – 0g – 0%

These values are based on the contents of two scoops weighing 55 grams, which would mean one scoop should weight 27.5 grams. However, when I weighed the contents of one scoop, it was 45 grams. I can only assume there is much settling and compacting of the contents during storage and shipping, so the product as I now have it is denser than when Ultimate Nutrition did its calculations.

But whatever the case, below are the adjusted values for items that are not zero for one, 45 gram scoop.

Calories 166
Sodium – 29 mg – 1%
Total Carbohydrates – 43 g
Sugars – 9g

The two tablespoons of brown rice syrup I started with provide 150 calories and 38 grams of carbs. Thus with these adjusted values, one scoop of the Pure Muscle Carbs would be the appropriate amount, and the total values for the drink will be about the same as given above, just a little higher in carbs and calories.

Other Uses

As the ingredients indicate, the Pure Muscle Carbs contains some fructose. But as can be seen, the amount is not that high in relation to the total carbs. One scoop contains 43 grams of carbohydrates, but only nine of those are from sugar, the rest are complex carbs. That means, this product would work for post-workout nutrition as well.

I also used this same drink immediately after weighing in for my most recent contest. I also prepared three shaker cups for during the contest, one to mix up and drink before warming up for each of the three powerlifts. But I had to use dehydrated iced tea instead of brewing fresh tea. Iced tea does not contain near the amount of antioxidants as freshly brewed tea does, but it does contain caffeine, and that I need to get through the grueling day that is a powerlifting contest.

Note also, the creatine and glutamine I use are both also Ultimate Nutrition products. These are the best creatine and glutamine products I have used. All of these Ultimate Nutrition products are available from Amazon.


June 23, 2014 Update

The above product is very useful for a pre- or post-workout drink. But frankly, I had gotten tired of just drinking calories. It takes just a few seconds to down it, and that produced little culinary satisfaction. So in the fall of 2013 I wanted to consume some kind of real solid food, but one that would still provide the needed protein, carbs, and fat for a pre-workout food, along with liquid to be hydrated for the workout. It took a while, but I thought of the perfect thing: cold cereal.

I used to eat cold cereal for breakfast all of the time, and really liked it. But I switched to oatmeal years ago as it is healthier. But I've been missing eating cold cereal ever since. Moreover, the maltodextrin and fructose in my pre-workout drink was good for the carb source in terms of providing energy for the workout, but they is just that, pure carbs, with no nutrient value otherwise, so I figured a whole grain, low sugar cereal would be an improvement over that.

So my pre-workout snack is now a bowl of such cereal, with fruit and nuts added to it. The fruit is usually raisins, as they are easy to digest, and I limit the nuts to a very small handful. I've found a small amount of fat wards off hunger during the workout, but too much sits in my stomach. I also add creatine.

Instead of milk, I use protein powder. That way, I can put a scoop of dry protein powder in the bowl after the rest of the ingredients, and then cover the bowl. I use a glass bowl and cover it with plastic wrap, as I'm just taking it downstairs, where my home office and home gym are located. But if you're taking it out of your home, I'd recommend getting some Tupperware cereal bowls, with lids. Either way, it keeps without refrigeration. When it's time to eat it, I just pour in some water from the water bottle I always have at my workstation, and stir with a spoon. It reconstitutes just fine. Just be careful not to stir too hard and spill it!

This snack is much tastier than just guzzling a drink, but it still provides the carbs, protein, fat, and liquid for a workout. I consume the cereal about an hour before my workout. It digests sufficiently in that time so as not to disturb my workout and keeps me fueled throughout my workout. If you're eating it after a workout, then omit the fruit as it is not good for muscle glycogen replenishment. I address that complex issue in my books.

This snack has about the same glycemic response as the Muscle Juice. And I feel energized for my workouts, without getting hungry. And most importantly, my workouts have been going very well since switching to this snack rather than using a drink.

My favorite cereal brand is Barbara's, a natural brand, especially their Morning Oat Crunch (formerly Shredded Oats) and Multigrain Spoonfuls (formerly Shredded Spoonfuls). They are what I want, whole grain and low in sugar. The boxes also now say the grains are non-GMO, another plus.

I alternate between peanuts and cashews in my morning oatmeal, and mix almonds into yogurt at bedtime, so for something different, I use pecans and Brazil nuts in the cereal. As I mention in my Eating Plan book, just one or two Brazil nuts a day will provide a full day's supply of selenium, an important nutrient for men as it helps ward off prostate cancer. So that is what I use in the cereal, along with several pecans. The protein powders is a 50/50 mixture of Optimun's Natural Whey and Natural Casein. All of the food links above are to iHerb, which sells such products. Use coupon code HOP815 to get $5.00 off your first order.

The proportion of calories will vary depending on the cereal. But below are the amounts when using the Multigrain Spoonfuls:

Cereal: 1 cup
Protein Powder: 3/4 scoop
Raisins: 1 oz.
Pecans: 1/2 oz.
Brazil Nuts: 2 small.

Calories: 477
Carbs: 50%
Protein: 27%
Fat: 30%

The proportions are a little different from the drink, but it works. And that's all that matters.


June 19, 2017 Update

I have continued to use the cold cereal mixture indicated in the preceding update, and my training has continued to go well. However, rather than a bowl and Saran wrap, I now use a Fit & Fresh container. It is just the right size for the amounts of the indicated ingredients. Thee containers are also nice for putting cut up fruit in, as they come with small ice packs, that keep the fruit cold. But if the reader would prefer to drink your pre-workout snack, then Pure Muscle Carbs is available from Amazon.


Pre-workout Nutrition. Copyright 2008, 2014, 2017 by Gary F. Zeolla.

The above article was posted on this site September 1, 2008.
The Updates were added as indicated.

  Powerlifting and Strength Training
  Powerlifting and Strength Training: My Diet/ Eating Plan

Supplements
Supplement Descriptions

  Dealing with Health Difficulties
  Hypoglycemia, Diabetes, and the Glycemic Index

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