What should I eat before workout?
I have been asked this question quite a lot “Can you guide me on what I should eat before workout”? Nutrition before workout is very much an individual thing. The timing of your food will vary according to the time of the day you exercise as well as the type of workout you are into.
What is NUTRITION?
Nutrition does not mean only “food”. The definition goes way beyond…One of the distinct phases of nutrition is the intake of energy for our body to use which means understanding the different energy systems fulfilling the physiological functioning of our human body. We all need an uninterrupted supply of energy to sustain life. All our energy comes from the foods we eat carbohydrates being the main macronutrient source of energy.
Listen to your body!
When I started working out in my community gym I would do an hour of walking on the treadmill and then half an hour of biking at moderate intensity and I was very happy that I could walk on the treadmill and be able to finish my hour of reading….you must have guessed my intensity of workout by now. My aerobic fitness level was increasing but I was not losing any body fat.This level of constant intensity exercising was definitely not working for my body. This is how my body functions….I wake up very hungry each day. I need food or a shake within 15 min of waking up. I also love to workout early in the morning. So I would eat a slice of multigrain bread with peanut butter and a banana . My tummy was happy..off to the gym I went. Forty minutes into my workout I am starving again. Here is what was going on? I had depleted the energy provided by the carbohydrates since carbohydrates are quickly broken down and our liver and muscles store them in the form of glycogen to provide us with the energy needed during workout. Glycogen is clearly the most important energy source often used in exercise.Now I was doing the slow long duration exercise and with my glycogen stores depleted my body was turning to my next macronutrient energy source “fat” to fuel my body. But this was the problem..I did not have enough glycogen left to break down the fats into something the muscles can use. Fat breakdown takes much longer than carbohydrate breakdown hence the hunger signs.
Pre-workout food before High Intensity exercise !
I had no choice but to move to High Intensity workout routines if I was looking to get my body fat percentage down. Now it is best for our bodies to provide us with energy during high intensity workout rather than using half of that energy in digesting the food that we ate prior to exercise. If you are eating complex carbohydrates like sweet potatoes or oatmeal make sure you are consuming them atleast 2 hours before exercise since complex carbs take longer to breakdown. In my case since I like working out at 6am or 7am…I personally like to have liquid food before exercise. I make a shake out of Orgain chocolate meal powder and half a banana and since it is in liquid form the body absorbs it pretty easily 40 minutes before I start my workout. Since high intensity workouts are short duration exercises and range anywhere from 20-30 minutes…I started burning more calories than my low intensity long moderate workouts. Fat oxidation takes place sooner and faster in high intensity workouts thereby burning more calories from fat. During this HIT exercises our body uses a combination of different energy systems. Carbohydrates and fats fuel our bodies with energy and our goal is to make sure we have enough carbs to help prevent protein to be used as a form of energy. A high carbohydrate diet can reduce the speed of fat oxidation. What you eat and when you eat is very important.
Hydrate ! Hydrate ! Hydrate !
Why is hydration so important?
My hydration needs have always been very unique…I love to hydrate and drinking just plain water has never been an issue. This one day I had hydrated myself really well till 4pm and then rest of the day the daily responsibilities caught up and totally forgot about hydration for the rest of the evening. I had a very high intensity personal training session scheduled with a trainer the next morning at 7am. That workout was a nightmare. I felt low in energy and after 20 minutes dizziness set in and it was not a pretty feeling. Learned my lesson the tough way… so hydrate and here are some of great ways to get electrolytes in your body. Chia seeds added to water help retain electrolytes along with getting your little dosage of omega3. Coconut water is another good source of electrolytes. Most people also take coffee for the caffeine boost before workout. If you need a milder dose of caffeine add green tea bag with lemon in your water for added anti-oxidant benefit.
Listen to your body, study it, understand its requirements and fuel your body to reach its best workout potential.