If figuring out what to eat (or not) before a big workout causes you to break into a premature sweat, we understand. With so much nutrition advice out there, it may be difficult to know what’s best for you and your body. Will hitting the go button on an empty stomach cause you to burn more fat? If you do eat something, would a bowl of oatmeal or a protein bar better help you go the distance? When is the optimal time to nosh on something so you feel fueled but not weighed down during your workout?
Let’s take a closer look.
Should you workout on an empty stomach?
Proponents believe that before even your morning Cup of Joe, lacing up and hitting the road for light, sustained cardio can boost weight loss. The idea comes from bodybuilders who employ this technique. Why? Glycogen, a stored carbohydrate, is depleted in the morning. Because this is the body’s preferred energy source, if it’s not readily available there’s greater potential for the body to burn stored fat as you workout instead. However, if glycogen is completely depleted, the body will turn to your muscles for energy, which is BAD NEWS. Burning muscle means you’re creating more room to store fat. You’ll also feel weaker and look flabbier. No Thanks!
Writes Men’s Health Magazine:
“DO NOT train on an empty stomach. Yes, many bodybuilders do it, and they’re huge. But they’re also bodybuilders, and thanks to good genetics, a high level of muscle mass, and–sometimes–steroids, muscle burning isn’t as big a problem for them. If in fact you do burn more fat on an empty stomach, and let’s say you avoid burning up any muscle for fuel, it’s still not going to get you the best results in the least time. Scores of studies and a ton of evidence as presented by the world’s best trainers shows that brief, intense workouts are best for making drastic and lasting changes to your body–building muscle and burning fat. You’ll be able to burn more calories in a session if you train after a solid meal, and you’ll support muscle mass, which burns calories all day long just by sitting on your body.”
Okay, I got it. But what should I eat?
When it comes to working out, carbs at your BFF. Yeah! But before you reach for that bagel, remember all carbs are not created equal. The key is to opt for a mix of both simple and complex carbs. Reminder, simple carbs like fruit and milk give you a quick burst of energy. Complex carbs like oatmeal, brown rice and potatoes keep you humming along at a steady pace. Adding protein will further help to stabilize blood sugar.
When should I eat?
It really depends on your body. Some people can eat a big meal before a workout and feel great. Others need a few hours to digest. In general, nutritionists recommend you consume a light snack an hour before you work out. If you eat a bigger meal, wait 2-3 hours before working out.
Here are some of our favorite pre-workout snacks that deliver, simple and complex carbs and protein.
Do you have a favorite snack that supports your workout regimen and tastes delicious? We’d love to hear about it. Please share your go-to in the comments.