Happy Friday friends.
I have a bone to pick with the ladies out there who choose not to eat before they workout…
Okay so IF (intermittent fasting) is a whole other topic to discuss later, but I wanted to bring up the idea of a pre-workout meal because of something that happened earlier this week.
I had just arrived at the gym and saw one of the trainers running over to her client, who was on the floor, with a juice and a protein bar.
Well that ain’t looking good.
After about 15 minutes of them chatting, her nibbling and drinking, she got up and walked out of the gym.
Of course me being too curious and nosey spoke to the trainer afterwards (I didn’t just go right up to her and ask, I know her and she was training beside me) and asked her if her previous client was okay and she mentioned that yeah, she didn’t eat much before she came in…
She also mentioned that she was pre-diabetic…
Further #FacePlant moment…
If you’re diabetic you need to talk to your doctor about how to eat if you’re working out! That is potentially life threatening!
Now, I talk more so about women here because that is who is most doing this. Men on there other hand typically have no issue fueling their bodies before they lift. Why is this? Perhaps it’s an attempt to limit calories. Maybe they have heard that the “fitchicks” workout fasted and obviously they look good so it must be right. Or maybe it’s just a lack of education on how the body responds to training in the absence of fuel.
But whatever the reason is, it needs to be addressed and changed.
Please note that what I’m referring to here is working out first thing in the morning on empty or going hours upon hours without food and then training.
Saving my calories.
This is something we definitely need to get out of our heads. If any time is a time for eating, it’s pre and post workout. What are you thinking is going to fuel that workout? If you think that working out without eating automatically leads to your body using your own fat stores as fuel, I’m sorry, but that’s not true. #BroScience
So, not only does it not speed up fat loss, but for most people, you will just end up leaving you tired, weak and having a bad workout because you just can’t give it everything you have.
Or in the case of the poor woman mentioned above (well almost)…
Lets avoid that mmmmkay?
But the fit girls on Instagram do fasted training?
First off, that’s most often fasted, LOW INTENSITY cardio first thing in the morning NOT HIIT or weight lifting. Cardio is a funny thing, some people feel sick doing it with anything in their stomach, while others are fine. So often the best suggestion is to say “go on how you feel.” Also, I have already addressed before that fasted cardio is not a means of effective weight loss as opposed to non-fasted.
So, once again, no weight loss gains from not eating for cardio.
As far as lifting on empty, just don’t do it. Lifting weights really requires fuel. Them Intermittent Fasters may argue all they want with me but from personal experience (which, actually I don’t think I have every thought to even lift without food as I pass out easy) and other knowledgable people (listen to a few podcasts by Dolce, whom I mentioned in an earlier post) it’s just not a good idea and leads to sucky and unproductive workouts.
Most people just cannot focus and give a workout all they have if their stomach is growling at them. Very generally, weight lifting tends to use carbohydrates as the main fuel as you are working in an anabolic state (without oxygen) during a lift.
….Provided you are working at a good intensity…
Carbs are a fast and easy fuel to get at to energize those quick bursts of activity (ie. lifts) effectively and so if you don’t have much in the tank, your lifts will suffer.
Plus, did I mention how distracted we all tend to get when we’re hungry.
So if there are no benefits to training fasted and it ends up messing up your workout, why do it?
Lack of education.
Now it’s entirely possible that many don’t even think to eat in a closer proximity to their training because it just doesn’t occur to them that that working out is an additional energy expenditure and, thus, needs more fuel. Maybe they think that if they’re not hungry now, then all is good.
This is not always the case. If it has been hours since your last meal and you’re looking to hit the weights soon, I would suggest giving it something. It doesn’t have to be huge, especially if it’s mid day, but just something that has some carbs and protein in it.
Fats are often dependent on timing. If it’s right before, they may not be the best choice as they take long to digest and your energy will go to digestion rather then to your workout. Also, they may fill you up too much for your liking.
Consider this, if you’re body doesn’t have the fuel it needs, it may start to search for itself for fuel…and often that is your own body protein (ie. muscle). We don’t want that do we? So avoid the tummy grumbles and self-eating process all together.
So here’s a few scenarios to consider.
Morning lifters. DEFINITELY EAT! You have been fasting already for upwards of 8-9 hours and now you’re expecting your body to give you enough energy to lift weights. Uh no. Give yourself enough time, eat something with good sustainable fuel and power through that workouts. Suggestions? If you have a little bit of digestion time (1-2 hours), aim for a balanced meal of protein, complex carbs and some fat. A common staple is oatmeal. Whip in some egg whites or add a scoop of protein powder, throw on some cool toppings (fruits, nut butter, etc) and enjoy. If you need to be out the door quickly, oats may not be the best as the fibre takes too long to digest. Think faster digesting carbohydrate and protein sources and minimize the fats. Consider a smoothie of sorts perhaps?
REALLY EARLY morning lifters. If you’re one of those people who have to train at some gawd awful hour and you just can’t even fathom eating something, I would still say to try to have something. Your body will adjust but I just don’t think it’s a good idea to go in with nothing. A rice cake with protein powder ‘icing’ or peanut flour and banana could be something small with some carbs and protein. If you can stand drinking half of a smoothie that could work too. Just try something.
Afternoon and evening lifters. The need to eat is less of a immediate cause of concern here as you have already got a few meals in you. That being said, if you haven’t eaten for more then 3-4 hours, perhaps think about a snack or plan you workout about an hour or two after a meal (depending on it’s size). Say you eat lunch around 1, get off work at 4:30 and hit the gym for 5, try to sneak in a snack on your way to the gym. Again, think some carbs and protein but the amount will depend on how you feel and how long you have before hitting the gym.
Cardio only. If your focus is just cardio, then it may be a bit different. If you’re doing HIIT (high intensity) follow the same protocol as lifting. If endurance is your thing, if it’s first thing in the morning, reach for something small but packed with energy. Often I see runners using dates with a bit of nut butter just for a quick burst of energy that won’t weight heavy in their stomach. If you’re an afternoon runner/cardio goer, go with how you feel and what makes you feel best. Once again, I don’t recommend going hours without food as your body will compensate in ways you won’t like, but you also don’t want to eat so much that your puke mid run either.
So yeah, no research this week, but just my thoughts and experience to share here. You don’t save calories by not eating before hand. Most often you will actually just ruin a potentially good workout by performing at a sub par level because you’re inadequately fueled. You can’t build muscle without food. Sorry you just can’t. Your body is smarter then you are as I always say, so don’t try to fool it.
I hope you enjoyed and if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, fire away in the comments 🙂
Have a great long weekend all!