You can’t starve your way to fitness. You must eat the right types of food to help you achieve your goals. Whether you want to look thinner or more ripped, gain muscle mass, or just have more energy, food is your friend. Feeding your body before a workout to generate the most amount of energy, create the chance to burn as many calories as possible, and fit into your real time schedule can be a bit of a dance.
To those of you who think not eating anything before exercise will set you up to burn, baby, burn are a bit off. First of all, if you are going to work out in the morning your body has just burned 80% of your glycogen (which is the main energy source that is stored in your liver and muscles for energy) while you were sleeping. So, you need to replenish your energy reserves to help your body to work efficiently and to have enough energy to actually do the “work” in working out.
If you don’t normally eat in the morning then start off with small meals to get you accustomed to eating first thing. If you don’t want to eat, it’s fine to go the smoothie route, which, when made correctly, is rich with nutrients.
Oatmeal is also great to sustain your energy. And for something quick and to the point, I love a banana with almond or peanut butter for a solid burst of energy.
If you aren’t going to workout until the end of the day, then go ahead and have a giant, healthy lunch because you have plenty of time to digest it. And you will need that energy when you are ready to go.
To give you an idea of how we burn through different types of food, it takes four to six hours to digest fat, three hours to digest protein, and two hours to digest carbohydrates. I would avoid eating too much fiber long before or right after exercise, as it can cause bloating and a bit of an irritation in your GI tract. You don’t want to have the sensation of gas while working out (unless, of ourse, you are trying to keep other gym members away).
If you only have fifteen minutes as you head from work to the gym, then drink a smoothie. Try rice or almond milk as your base, throw in some frozen fruit, powdered protein, a banana – and if you are getting wild, some greens – and off you go. If you feel like getting crazy you can add flaxseed meal for thickness and some Udo’s oil.
No, potato chips aren’t a great pre-work out meal, and watch out for energy bars. Eating too many sugary bars can work against you in the weight area: Some are not that far off nutritionally from a Snickers.
Another critical thing to pay attention to is what a lot of professionals call the golden hour: the sixty minutes after you train that is so pertinent to recovering and refueling muscles. This is a great time to eat a protein-rich meal.
Just remember the time line for how long it takes to digest food and strategize about what would be best to eat and when.
Remember your mantra: “Food is my friend.”