Thursday, August 30

What to Eat Before a Workout

Do you want to reach your fitness goals faster?   Finally see those toned muscles that are eagerly awaiting below the surface?   Or run your fastest race ever?

If so, you need to use food as your fuel. 

True, we might turn to food at times for comfort or companionship or to celebrate; but food, ultimately, is fuel. That's an important statement to remember when you're grocery shopping, out to dinner with friends and especially if you want to get the most out of your boot camp workouts.

Find the Perfect Pre-Exercise Meal Plan

If you choose to fuel your body poorly - or not at all - before your workouts, it results in a fitness furnace that cannot possibly run at maximum capacity.  That's a shame, because you could be burning more calories and building more lean muscle in your workouts if you eat a proper meal before exercise.  Eating the right foods before you workout will reduce light-headedness, sluggishness and give you energy to push yourself beyond your limits. The science of sports nutrition can also help you figure out what to eat before a 5k race, a training session or a big game.

General Pre-Workout Meal Rules

  • Consuming carbohydrates is key before your workout, race or big competition.  The body can quickly turn these carbohydrates into energy while proteins and fats take longer to digest.
  • Fluids - including low-calorie sports drinks if you're a heavy sweater or will be exercising longer than 60 minutes - are also important to prime your body for the workout ahead.  Keeping a water bottle close by your side even when you're not working out can help increase your H2O intake.
  • High intensity workouts - like sprinting or interval training - move blood from your stomach to your extremities to help with muscle movement.  You might find foods that fuel your workout perfectly when you exercise at a moderate intensity won't agree with you during a high intensity workout.
  • Foods that are high in sugar, caffeine, fats and fiber should be avoided directly pre-workout as they also tend to upset your gastrointestinal tract.

What to Eat Before a Morning Workout

You barely have time to comb your hair, let alone eat food before your morning workout, so why on earth should you wake up even earlier to eat?

It's estimated that non-breakfast eaters hamper their early morning workout capabilitites by 20%. That's 20% less calories burned, 20% less lean muscle building, and 20% less fat-burning power.  Plus, you're a big slug bug when you wake up! Overnight your blood sugar levels have dropped like a rock.

As soon as you arise begin sipping water. Try to get at least 100 calories of easily-digestible food before working out, like a medium-sized banana, 1/2 container of yogurt with cereal sprinkled on top, or 1/2 an english muffin.   If you simply cannot stomach an early morning breakfast, try eating breakfast as your dessert the night before. A piece of multi-gran french toast with blueberries can help put a little reserve energy in your tank for the next day's workout.

Many endurance athletes actually wake up in the wee hours of the morning to eat a full breakfast, then go back to bed before waking again for their 6am workout!!!  If they can do that, then you can wake up 7 minutes earlier to eat a bowl of cereal.

What to Eat Before an Evening Workout

Working out at night means you have a whole lot of obstacles that could come between you and your optimized pre-workout meal. Don't let those last-minute deadlines de-rail your pre-exercise meals.

Energize your evening exercise by eating a substantial lunch low in fat with a moderate mix of protein and carbohydrates.  Keep the fiber content moderate as well (avoid the bran muffins) and drink several glasses (24+ ounces) of water throughout the afternoon.  Then, one hour before the workout, have a pre-exercise snack that you know will agree with your stomach like a small fruit smoothie or a low-fat granola bar. The longer your workout, the bigger the snack should be.


What to Eat Before a Run

Runners often find it difficult to find the right pre-run meal.  Imagine whatever you just ate being bounced around your stomach like a ping pong ball. Ugh, it's no wonder your stomach might be upset!  If you're new to running, it might take your gastrointestinal track time to adapt to eating before your run.  Try eating a few bites of a really simple carbohydrate, like a bagel, a few hours before your run.  Over the next few weeks, try to gradually increase the size of your snack to about 200-300 calories and decrease the time between eating and running to one hour.

How to Find Your Best Pre-Workout Meal Plan

Experimenting is part of finding out the best pre-workout meal for you.  Pre-exercise snacks that are perfectly fit for your friends or Fitness Trainer might not work for you.   Pre-workout meals that fuel your moderately intense workout might not work when you go hard-core.  Foods that boost your energy during training sessions might not work on competition day when your nerves get the best of you.

To help you find your perfect "pre-game" meal or snack, keep a food journal that notes how you felt before your meal and then during/after your workout or race. Make small adjustments in nutrient timing or small adjustments in your food choices if your snack upsets your stomach or you feel sluggish. The mark between having a good workout and an amazing one could be switching to a different food or simply eating that same food earlier or later in the day.

If you find it difficult to find your award-winning food combination, a Registered Dietician or Sports Nutritionist can help you explore your options.  Just remember to bring your food journal to your first session;  that's half the battle in discovering what pre-workout plan is best for you.

Jill Tomich is is a Certified Lifestyle & Weight Management Coach and co-founder of Ultimate Bootcamp. Before her early morning workouts she eats a 1/2 apple with peanut butter.  To outlast her tennis opponents, she eats a hearty vegetable salad with tuna 3-4 hours before the match, a piece of Ezekial bread with jelly and a banana one hour before and drinks copious amounts of water throughout the day.

1 comment:

  1. I don't eat before I exercise in the morning. It works for me.