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Fueling Your Body Pre-Exercise

Here are some questions my clients ask me.  Should I eat before my workout?  Is it better to exercise on an empty stomach so that I tap into my fat stores and burn them away?  I run out of energy during my workouts but have a sensitive stomach and can’t seem to figure out what works.  How much should I eat before going out for an easy jog?

If your goal is to perform well during exercise then you definitely want to eat prior to exercise.  The bottom line is that when you eat carbohydrate-rich foods before exercise, you will perform better, both mentally and physically during the workout.

If you have a sensitive stomach or find that you basically don’t feel great when you eat before exercise choose low-fiber and low-fat foods, they are easier to digest.  Also try to eat at least an hour before beginning your workout.  Avoid foods like peanut butter, cereals, bread and grains before your workout.  Both fat and fiber hold food in the stomach longer and if you have a sensitive stomach you will want to eat food that will be digested and out of your gut when you start exercise.  Some good low-fat, low-fiber options are banana, fruit salad, fresh berries, steamed non-gaseous vegetables, kefir, low fat yogurt, organic milk, soy milk or almond milk.  For those lifting weights a meal replacement shake may be appropriate such as the Isalean Shake

How much to eat is dependent on your body size, the type of exercise, intensity, duration, and ultimate goal of the exercise.  If you are exercising for fitness, at a low to moderate intensity for 60 minutes or less experiment with consuming 120 calories and see how that feels.  If the workout is very light, such as yoga, walking, or light cardio you may not need to eat.  In these cases an empty stomach may feel best or you can consider liquid calories like a half serving of 100% juice added to water, coconut water, or an electrolyte replacement drink.

What if your ultimate goal in exercising is to burn fat?  It is true that exercising on an empty stomach allows you to burn fat during exercise, but this does not necessarily translate into a reduction in body fat.  Why?  Because when you go into a workout with a low carbohydrate reserve you will feel less energetic and are likely to drop the intensity of your workout.  When you have low carbohydrate reserves generally exercise feels much harder.  Therefore if you were to get on a stationary cardio machine with low carbohydrate reserves and attempt a moderate to high intensity workout you would probably run out of fuel within 20 minutes resulting in a reduction in intensity and perhaps even total time of exercise.  But if you were working with the cardio machine and are planning for a very low intensity workout you would be more likely to sustain the intensity for up to an hour even if you had not had a meal or snack prior to exercise.  If your goal is to loose body fat you should be working at a moderate to high intensity.  In order to sustain that type of workout your body needs carbohydrate as fuel.  Therefore if you have not had a meal within approximately 2 hours you should consume a low calorie, carbohydrate rich food.  Some examples are ½ cup cooked oatmeal with some berries; whole grain bread, look for sprouted bread, along with no more than 1 Tablespoon of almond butter; or a small serving of organic yogurt with ¼ to ½ cup of fresh fruit.

If your goal is to  build muscle the pre workout meal is only a little different.  As stated before, any high intensity workout requires carbohydrate reserves for fuel.  Carbs power exercise and weight lifting, cycling, running, tennis, soccer, volleyball are all examples of high intensity workouts.  If you have not had food within 2-3 hours it is easy to blow through your glycogen stores and then your mental and physical energy will drop during your workout.  When trying to build muscle choose pre-workout meals that provide carbohydrate and a bit of protein.  Great options are hummus and raw veggies, oatmeal topped with seeds or nuts, baked sweet potato with a little cheese, slice of sprouted bread with 2 ounces of chicken or other lean meat, or snack on edemame.  I like to buy the edemame in the pod, it’s available as organic and already cooked in the frozen food sections.  The meal I am most likely to consume prior to weight training, running over one hour, or cycling over and hour is an Islean Shake which provides 23 grams of carbohoydrate (more if I add some fruit) and 23 grams of protein.

The key to properly fueling your body is to experiment with which foods in what quantities work best for your body.  Consider the type of exercise, intensity, duration of exercise, time of day, when your last meal was, and your ultimate goal.  Always keep in mind that with all exercise, except very low intensity, the purpose of the pre exercise meal is to provide the nutrition your body needs to complete the exercise for a given intensity with a particular goal in mind.  Contact me for a free nutrition and exercise consultation.

To Eat or Not to Eat, That is the ???

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.

SUSTAINABLE SNACKS: Natural Energy Boosters

It's 3p.m., and you're feeling less than peppy.  Instead of grabbing a cup of joe or a caffeinated soda, why not try one of these natural, low-to no-calorie energy boosters? Almonds (preferably raw): Almonds are a terrific source of protein that helps stabilize blood sugar and increase energy.  Almonds also contain potassium, which aids in regulating glucose metabolism.  Eat a dozen, and chew well, for a healthy snack under 100 calories.

Peppermint:  Perk up with peppermint essential oil or peppermint tea.  Research suggests that the smell of peppermint can boost energy and alertness.  It has been found to stimulate an area of the brain that wakes us up in the morning.

Chocolate:  Not all chocolate is created equal.  Add to your daily diet IsaDelights.  It's a unique healthy, happy, quilt free dark chocolate.  If you love chocolate or crave junk food, just pop one of these 50 calorie treats in your mouth.  They satisfy the part of the brain that triggers cravings, leaving you feeling satisfied.  I enjoy an Isadelight every day, often it's the first thing I eat.

Water:  For the purposes of energizing your body, the colder, the better.  The sensation of cold helps stimulate the sympathetic nervous system (aka the fight-or-flight response) and trigger an adrenaline release.  When you need a quick boost, it gets the energy flowing.  Plus just about everyone could use more water daily.

My longest training day ever- 56 mile bike and 8 mile run

This will be my most difficult training day yet this year.  As i'm prepping for the half ironman i want to get in a 56 plus mile bike ride and follow that with a run of at least an hour and today is the day.  the weather is not looking so good, but the temperature isn't that bad. I'm using my Rever Reach water container for the first time and LOVED it.  It attaches to the back of my saddle and a tube runs along the cross bar and right between my aero bars so i can just lean forward and suck in a small amount of water any time i want.  I added a bottle of water with want more energy to one of my cages for purpose of electrolyte replacement.   I also brought gels and two different kinds of bars.

I set my goal to ride the first half at a slower pace and easier heart rate.  I'm going north on 9W for an hour or so and then turning back and maybe repeating.  Just watching the weather closely and don't want to end up 30 miles away and stuck in a downpour.  The first two hours my hr was 134bpm which is apporpriate for a long ride.  For the second half i set out for new territory.  Went south past the GWB and into palisades park which i heard is really hilly.  The road had very little traffic, but this old road could use some work.  I had to be very cautious on the down hills between the broken pavement, small tree branches and the shaded environment all lead to difficulty seeing the terrain well.  Really beautiful though and definately steeper hills than i have climbed in a long time.  Spent a bit of time out of the saddle.  I stopped for a gel at one point and asked two other cyclests where the road led.  They said about 3 miles further it would dump out onto 9w (i'm going north again now).  It was time to turn back, but i may start my next ride here next time. This second half i did not work as hard as i wanted to.  My HR was only 3bpm higher than the first half, but i was really getting tired of being on the bike and didn't feel like pushing any harder on these big hills

I completed my ride in 3 hours 45 minutes with very little stopping.  I covered 57 miles with an average speed of 15.2mph.

Back at the car i changed into running shorts and shoes.  Grabbed my handy water bottle and stopped into the bike shop to use the bathroom and inquire whether my bike rack replacement parts had come in.  Also locked up my bike outside the shop.  This system worked out well, although there were probaby 10 minutes between the bike and run.  Certainly not ideal.

The sun is out now and it's pretty humid so i had to decide between a fairly flat run in the sun or a hilly shaded run.  I chose shade and headed downhill to the palisades park again.   I always feel good getting off the bike so probably took it a little too fast in the beginning.  I had a gel right before the run and was feeling good.  My goal was to keep my HR between 156 and 162bpm, but that was not going to be possible with all these hills.  I was so glad to be off the bike and my mind was in a much better place now so i just went for it.  Ended up running  the 8 miles in 1hr 12min at a 9mm pace and HR ave of 165.

This is by far the longest training i'v done.  Almost 5 hours! and it really wasn't that taxing.  I was dying for a bagel with lox and cream cheese so went on the hunt before driving home which could take 45 minutes.  I didn't have any more food left and will remember to bring more bars and at least a piece of fruit with me next time.  This crappy town of Leonia has nothing open on Sundays.  Over just 1/4 mile there ws a deli, bagel shop and a bakery all closed.  So disapointed.  Drove home and bought one from a place around the corner from me and got all the satisfaction from that bagel and lox I was looking for.  Had a simple dinner of almond crusted roasted chicken over salad greens that night for dinner along with a cup of a mixed salad of beans and vegetables.  Followed by a cupcake.  No dout i can eat a cupcake after all that training today with no regrets!