If you are beginning a workout program, one of the questions you may have is whether you should load up on carbs and protein before you workout, or if you should exercise on a lighter stomach? There’s a lot of talk among researchers, dieticians and personal trainers about this subject, but the preponderance of the evidence suggests that you should eat before you work out, and here are some of the reasons this can be beneficial.
You Need The Energy
Whether you’re headed to the gym for a cardio-only workout, or you’re planning on using free weights or machines, your body needs fuel to get the job done. If your body doesn’t have nutrients before a workout, you are depriving yourself of the chance to maximize your strenuous activity. And the fact is that you don’t have to eat right before the workout to realize the benefits. For example, if you work out early in the morning, your last meal the night before is often enough fuel to get you through your morning workout, even if you don’t eat right before you exercise.
Starving Yourself Won’t Burn More Fat
One of the enduring myths in favor of not eating before a workout was the theory that without food to burn, your body would burn fat as you worked out. The truth is that your body will consume any source of fuel it can find, including your own muscles in order to power the workout. Your body is a parasite, and will feast on whatever source of energy it discovers, so working out on an empty stomach can actually do you harm in terms of losing muscle mass.
Eating Maximizes Your Metabolism
One of the ways you can improve the efficiency of your workout is to increase your metabolism as you are exercising. Well, if you don’t eat before a workout, your body has no trigger to rev up that metabolism, because you’ve cut off a main source of energy. Your metabolic rate is directly related to the amount of calories you put into your body, so fuel up, burn up and increase your energy level.
Eat Food High In Carbs
You’ve probably heard so many bad things about carbs, that your eyes glaze over when you see the word, but pay attention anyway. Because you do need to eat the right kind of food before a workout, or you’re not going to burn calories efficiently. When you subject your body to intense activity, it needs fuel to power your movements, and carbs are one of the first things your body craves when you’re active. Good carbs to eat in the morning include steel-cut oatmeal, whole grain cereal, wheat toast, eggs, whole wheat bagels, whole wheat toast and fruit such as blueberries, blackberries and apples.
Now while it’s beneficial to eat before your workout, the amount you eat and when you eat is also important. For example, if you are working out in the morning, then it’s fine to eat an hour or so before you hit the gym, as your body is primed at that point to burn off the excess carbs you’ve ingested. However, if you are working out in the afternoon or evening, you should eat small or medium-sized meals about two hours before you work out, or you may feel sluggish when you hit the weights or the treadmill. If you have a big meal such as a full plate of rice, beans and chicken, and try to work out within an hour, you may find that you’re slower and less energetic than usual. A good rule of thumb to follow when doling out portions of meat or fish, is that you shouldn’t exceed pieces that are larger than a deck of cards. Despite your shock, that is the size recommended by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture.
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