Nutrition is an all-important factor that can increase the efficiency of your workout. Although there were published works saying that exercising on a fasted state can make you burn fat faster, it should be taken with a grain of salt. When it comes to nutrition consumption, eating before and after exercising can be more helpful compared to choosing whether you should eat prior or after a workout. Exercising before eating can only do so little and will even be detrimental to your health.
When you are working out, your body needs energy as fuel for the physical exertion that you will be undertaking. Without any source of energy in your system, your glycogen levels and blood sugar levels will fall. And no, your body will not turn to your stored fats for energy. Instead, it will get the fuel that it needs from your muscle tissues. This is counterproductive when you are building muscle mass as your body will only eat it away. At the same time, when your body has low sugar levels during workout, you will feel sluggish and unfocused. This will affect your performance and incur you an injury.
Working out with intensity is only possible when you have sufficient glycogen stores in your body. When you fasted prior to working out, you can only survive on light exercises within half an hour. After that, you will already feel too exhausted and spent to even lift a muscle. It’s basically like wanting to use your phone for calls on a very low battery or driving your car without refueling it. It just won’t serve your goals. That said, exercising before eating will not give you the intense performance that you are aiming for.
Eating a meal before exercising will provide your body with the energy that it needs for better strength, stamina and performance. What you eat is as important as when you will eat it. A couple of hours prior to working out, you should have a meal loaded with carbs and protein, but low in fat. Carbohydrates provide your body with sufficient glycogen levels that will fuel your cardio or your weightlifting sessions. Avoid carbs and you might as well be saying goodbye to improved muscle development.
Even when you are in the process of losing weight, carbohydrates is still essential in your pre-exercise nutrition. This does not mean that you will load up on cookies and pastries. The best kind of carbs is the complex carbohydrates which you can get from whole grains, lentils and starchy vegetables. These contain nutrients and fiber which your muscles need for energy and in metabolizing macronutrients that will be fed to your muscle tissues.
Another non-negotiable in terms of pre-exercise nutrition is protein. Protein contains high levels of amino acids that prevent muscle breakdown and aids in the rebuilding process of your muscle cells. Choose lean meat, quinoa, and whey as they contain branched-chain amino acids which help in muscle regeneration. With the right amount of protein, you can maximize your muscle growth.
Depending on the intensity and duration of your workout, you might also need to eat in the middle of it. Half an hour in your training, your glycogen stores will already deplete and it will start to turn to your muscles to fuel your succeeding workout. That is why it is important to replenish it by way of taking in more carbs. At this point, a healthy natural shake will be your best bet. Aside from being convenient, it is also easier for your body to consume and digest, so you can use it immediately. After working out, your body needs to recover and a post-workout meal aids in making this process easier. It is during this time when your muscles are most receptive in absorbing nutrients for muscle synthesis.
Although eating is an important aspect of working out, do keep in mind that you should not overdo it as well. You shouldn’t be gorging on too much food especially before your workout. Size portions matter a lot in relation to food and exercise. If you are planning to eat a big meal, schedule it at least four hours prior to your workout. Small meals can be consumed a couple of hours before exercise while snacks are ideal for at least an hour prior. Consuming too much food will weigh you down when you eat it an hour before your workout. However, not eating enough will also be detrimental since you won’t have enough energy to fuel your session. You need to have enough sugar levels in your body for energy and snacking before and during exercises can provide you with that. Energy bars, protein bars, banana smoothies, and protein shakes are easy to digest and can help supplement your workout nutrition.
Most importantly, you have to be well-hydrated all throughout your workout. The metabolism of your muscle cells and the function of your system are dependent on the amount of fluid in your body. When you are dehydrated, you will have a poor performance and feel easily fatigued. It can also affect your focus and endurance, and put you in the risk of getting injured.
Before working out, drink up to 710 milliliters of water. In between your exercises, take breaks every 15 minutes to drink one cup of water. You should adjust this amount according to the current temperature as well as your body mass. Right after your workout, hydrate yourself with about two to three cups of water. Although water will be your main source of fluids, your body also needs to maintain its electrolyte levels. So if you have been working out for more than an hour, consume sports drinks. Aside from replenishing the depleted electrolytes in your body, sports drinks also contain carbohydrates which you need for that energy boost.