Should you eat before your work out? Is it better to exercise on an empty stomach so that you tap into your fat stores and burn them away?  What if you have a sensitive stomach?  Should it be carbohydrates or protein or both?  The bottom line is that when you eat carbohydrate-rich foods before exercise, you will perform better, both mentally and physically, during the workout.  The question then becomes, what works best for your body Got a Sensitive Stomach?

If so, choose low-fiber and low-fat foods before exercise as they are easier to digest.  Also, try to eat at least one hour before beginning your workout.  Avoid foods like peanut butter and high-fiber cereals before your workout.  Fat and fiber hold food in the stomach longer, and with your sensitive stomach, you want the food that you eat to be digested and out of your gut when you start exercise.  Some good low-fat, low-fiber options are:  Banana, low-fat yogurt, and whole wheat English muffin.

Trying to Burn Fat?

While it’s true that exercise on an empty stomach allows you to burn fat during exercise, this does not translate to a reduction in body fat.  When the body is burning fat for fuel during exercise, it inevitably means that you are working out at a lower intensity.  What does that mean?  It means that you are burning fewer calories per minute of exercise.

To really blast through fat stores, you need to be in the carbohydrate-burning zone.  When your body is using carbohydrate to fuel exercise, it means that you are burning more calories per minute.  If  carbohydrate is not available, your intensity drops, both physically and mentally.  Therefore exercise on an empty stomach generally feels much harder.  Choose a satisfying meal or snack, but keep the high calorie additions to a minimum if you are trying to loose body fat. Give yourself 30-60 minutes to digest and then hit a high intensity workout.  Best lower calorie carbohydrate-rich foods to blast fat:  cooked oatmeal with some berries or banana;  whole grain (look for sprouted bread) toast with a light spread of almond butter (less than 1 tablespoon) and natural preserves; or low-fat yogurt and fruit such as fresh berries.

What about Protein to build Muscle?

Eating protein-rich foods before exercise won’t necessarily lead to muscle gain.  Focus your attention on complete protein from animals such as chicken, salmon, and turkey post workout when your muscles are more receptive to the muscle-building affects of protein.

Before any workout you need carbohydrates.  Carbs power exercise, especially high intensity workouts like weight lifting, cycling and running.  You can blow through your glycogen stores (carbohydrate stores) during a heavy lifting or cardio workout.  And when glycogen levels get low your mental and physical energy will drop.  When trying to build muscle choose pre-workout meals that provide carbohydrate and a bit of protein for extra calories.  Best muscle-building options are: Hummus and raw vegetables; Oatmeal with fruit and some low-fat chicken sausage; baked sweet potato topped with cottage cheese; or snack on edemame (soy beans).

Prime your body for exercise by choosing carbohydrate-rich foods for your pre-workout meal.  When possible, give yourself at least 30 minutes to digest the food and absorb the nutrients.  Experiment with which foods which work best for your body.