You’ve got a grueling workout ahead. Should you dip into your kid’s Halloween candy stash and pluck out the Sour Patch Kids or the lip-puckering gummies to help you get an energy boost to power through your sweat session?
The answer is a resounding … maybe. You see, candy is a quick source of glycogen, the fuel your muscles use for energy production, so that’s why you might see bodybuilders at your gym eating strips of sour candy mid-workout. Let us explain further.
If you follow fitness influencers or gym enthusiasts on TikTok, you’re familiar with the hype surrounding “pre-workouts,” i.e. the supplements that come as powders and pills in various formulas to help boost energy and improve muscle performance. The science has some catching up to do on these claims. However, there is research that backs up the effectiveness of pre-workouts, including a 2018 study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition that found the supplements can improve muscular endurance and anaerobic capacity.
The fitness world has evolved from the early days of Gatorade and energy gels to a full-on multi-billion dollar pre-workout market that’s expected to swell to nearly $24 billion by 2027. But this idea of eating sour candy before a workout for better performance takes us back to the basics.
Some TikTok users, like @danidarlingg, are even squeezing citrus on Sour Strips and sprinkling on pre-workout powders for a turbo-charged, pre-workout energy boost.
Others claim sour candy is improving their lift workouts, including TikTok user Jayuanna.lenee, who started eating Sour Strips after seeing others in her gym doing so: “I had it today y’all, and I was lifting everything.”
The candy craze on TikTok has become so popular that BuzzFeed staff writer Christopher Hudspeth tried it out and posted his workout summaries, which show he had longer workouts, burned more calories and clocked a higher average heart rate when he ate candy like sour renditions of Gushers and Airheads before hitting the gym. His verdict: “The workouts after having sour candy were undeniably better than those without!”
To get a better understanding of why sour candy could be a performance booster, Simplemost reached out to registered dietitian Kim Yawitz, who owns a CrossFit gym in St. Louis.
“There’s some evidence that eating simple carbs (like sour candy) right before or during moderate- to high-intensity exercise can help your muscles work harder and recover faster,” Yawitz says.
A lot of this is based on the idea that maintaining the amount of glycogen (stored carbohydrate) in the muscles will delay the onset of fatigue during a tough workout.
Maintaining muscle glycogen levels with sour candy or other carbs can definitely be helpful for workouts lasting longer than 90 minutes, she explains. But in a recent systematic review, there was no strong evidence that increased carb intake improves strength training performance.
Yawitz added that nothing about sour candy stands out from a nutritional standpoint.
“Sour Patch kids have slightly more carbs and sugar than gummy bears, for example,” Yawitz says. “But if you were going to try the strategy, the ideal approach would be to aim for a specific amount of carbs — often 10%-15% of daily carbs — rather than eating a serving.”
The takeaway, according to Yawitz: Eating sour candy before a tough workout probably won’t hurt, as long as you’re not eating too much sugar in your overall diet. But you probably don’t need to pack candy in your gym bag if you ate a balanced meal a couple of hours before your workout — and provided that you get enough carbs throughout the day.