Most of us work out in the early morning, right after we wake up. The question often asked is whether there is a need to eat before you get down to exercising. Of course, the body needs to be properly fueled before a workout. And assuming you’ve been asleep for 8 hours, your body has not been refueled for at least 5 hours.
Do I need a refuel before working out?
Turns out, a lot of workout science is pretty subjective. What works for one might not work for another. So there are people who absolutely need to eat to have the energy for their cardio, and others who can run miles before feeling the need to stop for a bite. It is usually bad advice to begin or stop eating before a workout and disturb your exercise rhythm because you read an article on the internet. That said, there’s a few exercises that definitely need an extra helping of some macronutrients to be done properly. Your gym trainer should be able to advise you appropriately.
What shouldn’t I eat before a workout?
It might appear intuitive to you that a high intensity workout translates to a high requirement of energy. But sugary foods are the worst recourse to take. Sugar is pure carbohydrate, yes, and it is one of the quickest sources of energy. Not to mention, sugary cereal sounds like a wonderful breakfast.
But sugar is actually the worst food to eat before you work out. It gets you charged up, no doubt. But the sweet taste triggers the release of insulin in your body that seeks to suppress your blood sugar to maintain a proper medium in your body. Sugar triggers the reward centers in your brain, which makes you feel good. You want to train your brain to seek reward after the workout, not go into it with a rewarded feeling. The more alarming aspect of a sugary diet is the crash that follows a little while after eating. Sugar does get you a rush of energy. But an hour or so later, you crash, almost like a cocaine crash. And you crave more sugar, which can set an addiction pattern. You definitely don’t want either of those when you’re trying to be fit.
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Other foods that are harmful to eat before a workout are fat foods, caloric dense foods or anything consumed in excess. When you’re working out, your body diverts blood away from the gut to your muscles, so they can be supplied with adequate oxygen. Rich foods, heavy foods and even healthy food consumed in excess requires your body’s vital energy to be broken down, digested and assimilated properly. If it is unavailable, a lot of that nutrition might be lost, or it might make you feel bloated and uncomfortable during your cardio or even during stretches...and that's why some people throw up during an intense workout that was made too early after a meal.
What are good foods to eat before a workout?
The number one food to have before a workout is water. It is crucial to remain hydrated for your workout to be most productive. Many prefer not to have anything before a workout, and they do a fine job burning calories at the gym.
If you need something substantial, something that is not, well, water, you can go for dairy products like some low fat yogurt for the protein it packs. You can have fruits (some advise to have an apple or a banana), a quick fruit smoothie, or quickly throw a salad together and drizzle it with some olive oil for some flavor.
If you workout later in the day, like in the evening, you can usually go in without having a meal immediately before. If you’ve just eaten and feel full, wait for at least an hour, till you don’t feel as full. This is essential, or you might end up collapsing with fatigue in the middle of your cardio.
Not so long ago, people used to go into the gym without a pre-workout meal, and didn’t suffer from it. As long as you aren’t feeling very hungry, you can do the same. What the trainer advises is the final word though, since they know the specifics of your workout and body’s strengths and weaknesses.
Your goal is also very important. If you train to lose weight, then a fasted workout is recommended and will help you burn more fat. But if your goal is to gain muscle, then a good meal about 2 hours before the workout is needed in order to fuel a hardcore weight-training workout.