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Could Candy Really Be a Pre-Workout Hack?

Tons of bodybuilders and athletes swear by eating gummy bears or sour candy before and during a workout — and the science backs them up

A lot of athletes and bodybuilders eat a pretty utilitarian diet. For some, candy is a part of that — and it serves a purpose just as those egg whites or chicken breast might. On YouTube, fitness influencers regularly discuss their gym routines, beginning their sessions with a small handful of Sour Patch Kids or gummy worms. It might seem counterintuitive, but it’s not — in fact, nutritionist, personal trainer and Anywhere Gym owner Sean Salazar says it’s just like drinking a Gatorade

“When we lift weights, the type of energy that’s utilized is called glycolysis, which is taking glucose and turning it into energy,” explains Salazar.  “Everything we eat uses a process to turn into glucose, but it can take some time depending on what it is. With candy like gummy worms, the fact that it’s already in the glucose form means your body doesn’t have to break it down to turn it into glucose. It basically just takes it in your stomach and utilizes it instantly.”

Salazar notes that NFL star Marshawn Lynch is famous for eating Skittles during games. “A simple way of doing it, like eating a packet of sugar, would basically do the same thing, but they’re choosing candy, which is more enjoyable,” he says.

Basically, anything with some sugar would do the trick. Though Gatorade primarily promotes its electrolytes, it’s largely a means of giving athletes a quick dose of sugar. Beverages are a particularly fast way of doing this, as there’s little digestion involved. Fruit, on the other hand, releases glucose into the body more slowly because of its fiber content. Though candy requires some digestion, most of the varieties favored by bodybuilders and athletes, like gummy bears, are almost entirely sugar. 

“With athletes who might be eating a very clean diet normally, they’re not worried about it because they’re going to use the energy right away and burn it,” says Salazar. “Calories are just a form of measuring energy. [The number of calories from the candy] isn’t excessive, and with exercise, they’re using it immediately.” 

The majority of people who routinely eat candy as part of their workout do in fact eat a clean and healthy diet for the most part, and are usually only eating a small handful of Sour Patch Kids on the days they’re planning on burning a lot of calories. In other words, candy isn’t some secret fitness hack, but if you’re someone who goes hard in the gym, or finds yourself needing a little boost before a workout, it’s definitely a solid excuse to indulge in your preferred sugary treat.