What to eat before your workout can be a hot topic of confusion and debate in the fitness world. There is no one-size fits all answer, but there are a few keys that can help you choose the best fuel for you.
But first, it's important to note that what you eat right before a workout doesn't actually fuel your muscles right then... It simply keeps you from feeling hungry and stabilizes blood sugar for the workout. (This is good news for my real-food/primal peeps that are fat-adapted - we don't feel the blood sugar spikes and crashes that other people do.)
What you ate yesterday - and really, the whole week before - is much more important to fuel your workouts than what you eat in the hour before. So stay clean and consistent. Quality protein from reliable sources (read: pasture-raised MEAT) healthy fats, carbs from vegetables. All day, every day. Done.
WHEN and HOW MUCH to eat pre workout is variable, and should factor in intensity of workout, duration of workout, and digestibility.
Things to consider:
- If it's your goal to get lean, and access STORED glycogen and fat for fuel during a workout, you may not need much fuel pre-workout. Try to eat at least 2-3 hours before your workout. Make it primarily fat and protein.
- For short duration (less than 45 minutes) workouts, you may also want to fuel very lightly, and at least one hour before your workout so that your energy can be focused on the workout, not digestion. Fat/protein combo works well here too.
- Only for longer duration and very high intensity workouts do you need to consider adding in more carbohydrates (in low glycemic form) to help you make it through the long haul without depleting all of your stored glycogen. Carbs are: sweet potatoes, fruit, all veggies, coconut water, dried fruit.
- HYDRATE. It's just as important as fuel. In the hours before your workout, being well hydrated can make all the difference to your energy level and performance.
Here are some good combinations with fat/protein, and a small amount of carbs. You can increase/decrease the carb amount to suit your needs. Choose what is easily digestible for you!
- hardboiled egg and carrots
- slice of bacon and 1/2 avocado
- full-fat yogurt with almonds
- 1/2 apple with macadamia nuts
- celery sticks and coconut butter
- slices of (good quality) deli turkey
- slice of sweet potato with butter
Experiment, and listen to your body's very unique signals!
AND PLEASE, for the love of all that is sacred and healthy, PUT DOWN the powders, chemicals, and supplements. I can't even begin to list the nasty stuff these powders can contain that can be hormone disrupting, heart-rate stimulating, blood-pressure elevating, and overall BAD. If it says DMAA on the label, please take it directly to your nearest trash can. (DMAA is like a low-dose amphetamine, and banned in seven countries including Canada, but still available in products in the US.)
"But I'm feeling low energy, and don't really want to exercise, but I still think I should. Isn't there something I can take?"
Have you been working out hard, several days in a row? Have you been eating junk? Are you dehydrated, lacking sleep? May I suggest, not working out?!? Your body is trying to tell you something. Shhh... listen!