One of the biggest weight loss and fitness myths that many people still believe is that you should never eat before a workout. It’s not true, but to some people, it makes perfect sense.
Some people believe that skipping food before a workout makes the body burn more fat or calories because you haven’t eaten any additional fuel to burn. The reality, of course, is that it’s just not how the body works. Our bodies do not automatically begin burning more fat or calories just because there’s nothing in our stomachs.
If only it were that simple!
What happens instead, according to fitness expert Jillian Michaels (former trainer on The Biggest Loser) is that your body may actually use muscle tissue for energy or you just may not be able to work out at a high intensity.
Planning to hit the gym for a HIIT (high intensity interval training) workout? You’d absolutely need to eat something beforehand. What you eat varies on your body type and other factors, but you are going to need some sort of energy source – in the form of food – both pre- and post-workout.
When to eat before a workout
Michaels suggests you should eat lightly – not a ton of food – and eat about 45 minutes prior to your workout. All of that is going to depend on your metabolism, too.
If you’re unsure, talk to a Club Metro USA personal trainer who can help you figure out when to eat before a workout, and how much.
What happens if you don’t eat before a workout?
If you don’t eat before a workout, you’ll most likely hit a wall at some point. Your body will use whatever blood sugar it has to fuel the workout at the start, but you’ll find yourself crashing midway through it. Not only does that lead to a poor workout, but you could injure yourself along the way by not performing the exercises correctly due to lack of energy or brain fog.
Fatigue is likely in the forecast if you start your workout hungry. An hour run could turn into a 30 minute run, because you’re going to lack energy to keep going. If you do personal training, you may run out of steam and wind up unable to really push yourself. That’s wasted time, and the thing is that you can avoid it by fueling your workout the right way.
Beyond fatigue and lack of energy, consider what happens to your muscle tissue. When your body uses muscle tissue to get blood sugar for energy, you start to lose it. So any gains you’re making over time in muscle mass become compromised. If you’re going to spend time working on your strength training, there’s no point in jeopardizing it by trying to reduce your calorie intake.
Despite what people think about calories and weight gain, when you’re working out, your body needs food for fuel. You won’t get thinner more quickly by skipping meals and then trying to go even harder at the gym. It seems like that would work, but in reality it just weakens the body and introduces some serious risks.
What are the best pre-workout foods?
At Club Metro USA, we know that food plays a very important role in your fitness and overall health, and that’s why we promote a healthy lifestyle that balances good nutrition with high levels of activity. Here are our suggestions for pre-workout meals.
- The general rule of thumb is that you should eat enough to adequately fuel your workout, but not more.
- You don’t need to eat an entire sit down meal. Some fitness experts recommend a snack, or a very small meal.
- A pre-workout snack isn’t intended to feed you for the rest of the day. You’re probably going to be hungry after your workout, too, even if you eat before working out. That’s normal.
- They can be delicious, too. You can look forward to your pre-workout meal – it doesn’t have to be bland!
Here are some easy-to-prepare foods that will fuel your workout and keep you at max performance level:
#1 Protein Shakes
Before your next workout, stop by the juice bar at Club Metro USA! Everything on our menu is free of any added sugar, preservatives, or additives. Protein provides energy and calories to sustain your workout. If you choose a shake that does not have protein as part of the recipe, feel free to ask the staff to add protein for a small additional cost. We know that nutrition plays a big role in your fitness and that time is short. We have a variety of pre-workout and post-workout options for you, so make sure you check it out.
#2 Oatmeal with dried fruits, bananas, and apples
Oatmeal is a slow-burning carb, which means it takes your body longer to burn through it – great for workouts. Toss in a package of dried fruit and nuts – such as trail mix, and mix it into the oatmeal instead of sugar. Try adding a banana or diced apples. Not only is this a good pre-workout snack, you’ll also get tons of fiber and a few servings of fruit all in one go.
#3 Turkey and whole grain bread
Turkey and chicken provide healthy pre-workout proteins, while wholegrain bread gives you enough carbs for energy. This basic pre-workout meal is ideal for just about any activity. But be careful to avoid adding dairy products to your sandwich, like cheese. Also, make sure your brain is whole grain and not just milled wheat bread. 7 grain bread is a great choice. Skip bagels and tortillas.
#4 Whole grain pasta or rice
Try this: Make a pre-workout pasta salad that you can easily pack in your workout bag. Cook whole grain spiral pasta until it’s done, drain, cool, (be sure to use half a serving size) and toss in just a tiny bit of Italian dressing. Add sliced olives and chill. When you’re ready to pack up your snack, toss in some whole grain croutons. Whole grain pasta is a slow-burning carb and will be a good pre-workout snack as long as you give your body enough time to metabolize it (eat 45 minutes or so before working out).
Remember, your body needs fuel to help you maximize your workout. You can push yourself harder and go much further if you take care of your nutritional needs. Fitness and food go hand in hand. If you’ve never thought about fueling for a workout before, try these foods and see how much better you feel during and after a workout.