Pop quiz: What's a more effective way to get fired up for your next workout?
(a.) blast heavy metal or hip-hop music through your headphones
(b.) eat a banana or sip a sports drink
With all due respect to Metallica and Jay-Z, music isn't the answer.
Athletes need energy—real energy—and there's only one proven performer when it comes to fueling your muscles.
"Carbohydrates are the body's primary source of fuel for muscle contraction," says Kim Stein, senior principal scientist at the Gatorade Sports Science Institute.
For those keeping track at home, "contraction" is what happens to your muscles during pretty much every athletic activity. Swing a bat, kick a ball, drive block a snarling nose tackle—in every case, dozens of muscles in your body are contracting and releasing. Carbs make those movements possible.
Meanwhile, caffeine provides a false or perceived sense of energy. That "jolt" you feel is your central nervous system kicking into overdrive. It might make you feel more awake and alert, sure. But it is not providing carbohydrates to fuel your muscles.
Stein recommends fueling up with about 100 calories of easily digested, fast-acting carbohydrates about 15 minutes before your workout. Here are four options that will help you get off to a strong start.
Before a Workout, Try…
- Gatorade Prime Energy Chews
100 calories, 25g carbohydrates, B vitamin source (10 percent daily value), which helps maintain energy and metabolism
- Gatorade Prime Sports Fuel Drink
100 calories, 25g carbohydrates, B vitamin source (10 percent daily value)
105 calories, 27g carbohydrates, 422 mg potassium (which helps ward off cramps)
72 calories, 19g carbohydrates, 148 mg potassium
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock