Want to kill it in the gym, recover faster, and boost your immune system? Your workout fuel and post-sweat snack could make all the difference.

By Charlotte Hilton Andersen
Updated: February 22, 2017
Adél Békefi/Getty Images

Good news for carb lovers (which is everyone, right?): Eating carbs during or after a tough workout can help your immune system, according to a new research analysis published in the Journal of Applied Physiology.

See, exercise stresses your body. That's a good thing (your body's response to stress is how you get stronger). But this same stress can also weaken your immune system. People who regularly complete intense workouts are more susceptible to common illnesses like colds and upper respiratory infections. The more strenuous the exercise, the longer it takes the immune system to bounce back. What's a fit girl to do? Answer: Eat carbs.

Researchers looked at 20+ studies that evaluated about 300 people in total, and they found that the immune system doesn't take as big a hit when people consume carbs during or after a tough workout.

So how exactly do carbohydrates help your immunity? It all comes down to blood sugar, as Jonathan Peake, Ph.D., lead researcher and a professor at Queensland University of Technology explained in a press release. "Having stable blood sugar levels reduces the body's stress response, which in turn, moderates any undesirable mobilisation of immune cells."

While the boost in immunity is celebration enough, the researchers also found that eating carbs (think energy gels) during a workout lasting an hour or more (like your half-marathon training long run), improved endurance performance, allowing athletes to work harder for longer.

According to the press release, Peake and his fellow researchers recommend eating or drinking 30 to 60 grams of carbs every hour of exercise, and then again within two hours of finishing your workout. Sports gels, drinks, and bars are all popular ways to get a quick carb fix, and bananas are a great whole-food option.

Bottom line: If you're planning a long or intense workout, make sure you pack a high-carb snack in your gym bag or fuel up beforehand with one of these high-carb breakfast foods that are actually good for you.



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