Whether you work out in the morning before you head off to work, or you enjoy an evening session with a class full of likeminded people, your pre workout nutrition is key.
Getting this right, or wrong can seriously impact on your performance and ultimately reaching your set goals. In a general sense it is widely suggested that eating before exercise is important to prevent low-blood sugar, which can make you feel dizzy or lightheaded during and after your workout.
If you work out in the morning it is good to remember that your body burns up the remaining energy sources from the day before while you sleep, leaving you with little to work with, especially if you had an early evening meal. Eating the right food at the right time before a workout will equip you with the required energy stores to smash your session.
For many of us the ‘Journal of Applied Physiology’ isn’t exactly basic bedtime reading, but recently within this journal researchers found that eating a meal 45 minutes before moderate-intensity exercise significantly enhances exercise capability. This can lead to an increase in energy which allows you to work out with more intensity and for longer periods of time.
But with a morning exercise routine there are some people that can’t stomach food and nutrition that early on, so what then? Well lighter options such as low fat yoghurt and a banana, fruit juice or a smoothie can boost the blood sugar levels to where we need them.
Carbs before the Bars
Before hitting the steel at the gym a higher carbohydrate intake is sufficient. We all have our own exercise goal which is why comparing yourself to others in the gym is a no-go area, but that’s for another article. However, they are also more than likely on a different diet regime, which means looking after number one’s diet is where your focus should be.
A high-carbohydrate food with moderate amounts of protein that can be easily digested is ample 30 to 40 minutes before exercise. If your goal is to lose weight during this process then opting for lighter options such as jam or peanut butter on toast, a banana in flavoured low fat yoghurt also hits the spot.
If you looking to build mass and performance boosting food is what you need then eating something with higher calories is needed. This can include more nutrition and energy dense food such as bagels, scrambled eggs, cream cheese, rolled oats or porridge with fruit and so forth.
Time is of the essence
Of course an early morning workout is difficult if you have a busy family to tend to before heading out the door for work. Similarly in the evenings after work perhaps the gym is on your way home where food probably hasn’t been thought of let alone ingested since lunchtime.
Your personal preference comes into play here but in the morning opting for bowls of cereals with low fat milk, fruit, nuts or yoghurt can speed up the time spent in the kitchen and extend the time spent on the pec-deck! Or if you are bit more organized at work then make some toast with jam or butter and cook some porridge with added frozen fruit before heading home via the gym.
We have traditionally been told that breakfast is the most important meal of the day to enable us to face the days’ ventures. So why would we skip a meal prior to a challenging workout, sounds counter intuitive?!
However, more recently it has come to the media’s attention that more and more celebrities and fitness influences are relying on fasted exercise to hit their fitness goals. This trending movement is gathering momentum under the name of ‘intermittent fasting’. The idea behind this is you can flit between periods of eating and going without nutrition in and around a training routine to shed weight.
There is some science behind this as our body does respond well to eating a specific times and fasting to allow your body time to manage this food and disperse of the nutrition effectively. However this is not starving your body, which is not what we are talking about here.
Fasted training and working out most certainly relies on good nutrition prior to exercise as stated above. However, the strategy behind when you eat your body’s preferred source of fuel, carbohydrates is eating after exercise rather than before.
While some fasting fans say you shouldn’t eat anything before a workout, others treat the method more liberally, claiming that the only nutrient you need to avoid in order to technically remain in a fasted state is carbohydrates. This means you can still enjoy a high-protein breakfast, such as eggs and avocado, which will help with muscle recovery too.
When considering what to eat before exercise, your priority should also be with what to drink before exercise. Drinking water, keeping hydrated with all muscles, joints and organs lubricated will be key to your personal development. This is even more so important in the mornings or after a long lacklustre day at the office.
As the alarm goes off for work your body will be partially de-hydrated from not consuming any fluids during your night’s sleep. Drinking around 200 to 500 ml of water before heading for your morning session will ensure your body is ready for action. Continue to drink water throughout the workout as well as during the day ahead.
If you’re working out later in the day then there is certainly no excuse not to slowly increase your hydration levels prior to exercise. Water is also key for recovery as it supports muscle growth as well as your fat burning systems to perform optimally.
Written by Bev Walton, BSc Nutritional Science
I achieved a First-Class Honours degree in BSc Nutritional Science, Nutrition Sciences from the University of Reading and now have over 35 years experience in all types of cuisine, dietary plans, recipe development, health and nutrition. I have been writing for over 10 years for magazines and websites as well as ghostwriting for ebooks, Kindle and fully published books. I’m also a proud member of the Guild of Food writers.