This is another common questions that I get asked on the regular: What should I eat before training?
While you may have to figure out what works best for you, there are some general guidelines based in science that will help you determine what that pre-workout meal should be.
To be clear, most food takes 4-5 hours to fully digest and be usable for fuel and glycogen synthesis takes place on a 24 hour basis. What this means is that your pre-workout meal can have very little effect on direct fuel or glycogen saturation – in other words, what you eat before may not effect your energy levels.
Many don’t consider how important it is to be fueled from your previous day’s nutrition to have the energy stores to optimize energy in today’s workout. Start to connect the dots between yesterday’s meals and today’s energy – it might make you re-think your menus.
Your pre-training meal is more about controlling blood sugar and nervous system function.
If you eat too far away from your training session, or if you eat high glycemic carbs just before training, you may experience a drop in blood sugar and feel light headed and dizzy.
A meal 90-120 minutes prior to training is best, unless you are accustomed to training in a fastest state (more on this in a bit).
Your pre-workout meal should comprise of carbs and protein and very little fat. This is because fats take 4-5 hours to digest and will likely sit in the gut making you uncomfortable while training. As well, carbs are the preferred fuel source for optimal nervous system function. Adding fats to a pre-workout meal simply slows down digestion.
There’s actually a hormonal advantage to training in a fastest state so allowing carbs and proteins to digest at their usual rate with no fats presence enables your body to get to that fasted state.
We can take advantage of the hormone cortisol in fastest training. Cortisol provides the body with glucose by tapping into protein stores via gluconeogenesis in the liver. As long as our training sessions are short and we off-set the drip of cortisol with replenishing energy stores after working out, training in a fasted state can have some added fat burning potential.
Your post workout nutrition is imperative to shut off the cortisol drip and replenish energy stores. Refer to this post to read what that looks like.
At the end of the day, you need to discover what fuels YOU best before exercise. If you feel light headed, make sure to eat 90-120 minutes before you workout. If you feel sick to your stomach with some foods, try others or try exercising in a fasted state.
If you need some help determining what you should be eating when, let’s get talking here.