It gets asked time and time again: are we supposed to workout on an empty stomach? Or should we have something to eat before we start? Well.. what do we do?
Short answer: Yep.
At the beginning of my health journey, I would have told you there was absolutely no way I would be eating before a workout, I was probably under the misguided information that fasting will force your body to burn more fat to keep you going. Which is wrong, so, so wrong. Your body needs fuel to get you through your sweat session in the same way that your car needs petrol to get you from A to B. If you want to drive a 100km trip in your car are you going to attempt that with the petrol signal flashing? God no. It is the same with your body, you need to give it the fuel it requires in order to get going. Comprende?
If you work out early in the morning like me it can be hard to force yourself to eat a pre-workout meal, maybe you don't have time or maybe you are just not a morning meal person. But it is so important to eat before training if you want to really push yourself with your workout. I used to be a person who didn't eat before training and didn't realise how much harder I could really be pushing myself until I started to eat beforehand. My lifts can be heavier, I have way more energy, my endurance increases all by having one small meal before I hit the weights.
No fuel = low blood sugar = no energy
If you go into your workout with no fuel in your body there is a good chance your blood sugar is going to be low, making you feel slow and sluggish and that means you will not be performing at your optimum. But while it will have an effect on your performance it will also mean that your body is going to have to find an energy source from elsewhere in the body- but where from you ask? Your muscle. That muscle that you have been working so hard to build, yep that is going to start being converted into energy, and that is not what we want, is it?
So.. when should I eat?
Obviously, if you eat too soon before training you are going to have some regrets when you start getting the feelings of indigestion, stomach cramps and that bloody awful pain of your food just sitting there while you are trying to work out- we do not want that. You need to give yourself at least a good minutes to a full hour in between food and working out. Personally I get up and begin a stretch, warm up, activation at about the 45 minute mark, which usually leads me into my actual workout at about the one hour mark, and that seems to work for me, but your body may be different and you need to do a bit of trial and error.
Alright, what do I eat then?
You are going to want to fuel your body with something that contains both carbohydrates and some protein. The protein will help to prevent muscle catabolism in the body and gives you the amino acids the body will need to prevent muscle breakdown while still promoting muscle recovery and growth. The carbohydrates will provide you with glucose to use as energy to power you through the workout. While thinking about all the stuff you should also bear in mind that it would be good to avoid food that is very high in fat, fat is slow digesting and could be a burden on your stomach while training.
Throw some ideas at me.
Personally, my pre-workout meal is porridge, berries and a little bit of coconut yoghurt to tie it all together and I have no issues with indigestion and I can definitely feel the fuel working its magic on me. Other ideas for a pre-workout meal:
- toast with peanut butter and banana (I prefer strawberries, but whatever);
- yoghurt with berries and granola;
- Chicken thighs;
- Rice and veggies;
And if you really aren't big on a proper meal before training, try a smaller snack:
- A banana,
- a whey shake;
- A smoothie;
- Protein bar;
If you are out here not fueling your body before you train- what are you doing? Try one of these quick options and see the difference in intensity for your self!
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