A co-worker asked me today:
Should I eat something before exercise? Our morning workouts are tough on me. I’m just not up-and-running at that time. I prefer afternoon workouts, but obviously thats not always an option for me. What do you suggest? – or something like that…
As I was doing yard work this past Sunday, I tuned into episode 151 of The FitCast: Fitness and Nutrition Podcast via iTunes. I wasn’t expecting profound info to smack me in the face, but boy did it!
Portions of the podcast include questions sent in by listeners. I can’t help but wonder if my co-worker didn’t send the same question to them that he asked me today. What’s more likely, I suppose, is that his question is just that common.
Feed me, Seymour!
The answer given in the podcast was…basically…eat something. Almost anything will do. The point made was spectacular! When you fail to eat enough in a day (and fasting overnight counts), you limit your total output capacity. That is to say, you can only give your workouts as much energy as you take in…and then a little more.
I have led small group morning workout sessions that leave me looking for egress routes as hordes stare vacantly at me as seen in Shaun of The Dead. Without having to ask, I pretty much know why certain folks are so zombified during PT.
Pay It Forward!
What I told my co-worker (one of those working out dead during my AM PT sessions), is that a lot of how you feel in the morning depends on how you lived the day before (regardless of when you workout).
If your active, like my co-worker, shoot for twelve (12) 8oz glasses of water a day. Also…get enough sleep. Five to six hours for active bodies really isn’t enough…especially when you’re well into your 30s already (join the club, bro).
I wanted to be sure I hadn’t led him astray, so I typed into Google, “Should I eat b…” That’s as far as I got before Google recommended an article from the Mayo Clinic. One thing that caught my eye right off:
1. Eat a healthy breakfast
If you exercise in the morning, get up early enough to eat breakfast — that may mean one to two hours before your workout. Most of the energy you got from dinner the previous night is used up by morning, and your blood sugar may be low. If you don’t eat, you may feel sluggish or lightheaded when you exercise. If you plan to exercise within an hour after breakfast, eat a lighter breakfast or drink something to raise your blood sugar, such as a sports drink. Emphasize carbohydrates for maximum energy.
Good breakfast options include:
Whole-grain cereals or bread
Ladies and Gentlemen: The Self-Licking Ice Cream Cone!
Going back to another point made in The FitCast, creating a calorie deficit (i.e. when your daily caloric intake is lower than your daily calorie expenditures) is necessary for fat loss; however, when your deficit is too great, you are capable of doing less in the gym. That translates to fewer calories burned, which, in turn, may mean that even the limited caloric intake may be too much for successful fat loss. That makes for quite a vicious cycle. It might seem a little confusing, but give it some thought.
More importantly, experiment with this. Pay attention next time you work out on an empty stomach, on a full stomach, after no sleep, after lots of sleep, when under-hydrated, when sufficiently hydrated, and so forth. Really listen to your body. Not everyone is the same. Personally, i like working out on an empty stomach, but I also pay it forward by eating right most of the time (we all mess up from time to time).
Once you have a frame of reference for how you perform under certain conditions, you need to do something with that new info. Otherwise, it was all (excuse the pun) an exercise in futility.
Great question, co-worker!