Weight and Resistance Training - Food before working out?




View Full Version : Food before working out?


lalala123
03-22-2008, 09:28 PM
What do you eat before working out / lifting? How long before do you eat?

I'm asking because I'm never sure about this - I'm afraid that if I don't eat enough, I'll get weak and not have enough energy for the WO, but I'm also afraid of eating too much and feeling sick because my body can't digest and exercise well enough at the same time, or something.

Also, I don't really know what to eat - which macronutrient is most important before exercising / lifting weights? Carbs? Protein? Does it even matter? Is it ok to eat more if the time between meal and WO is longer? Or is it better to go for something smallish not too long before?

:dizzy:

I've read a lot about lifting weights and nutrition, but they don't really focus on the "timing", just on what we should be eating in general (enough protein, paying attention to total calories, etc.).


TIA

PS: I obsess more about this if I'm working out in the morning (so "what should I have for breakfast?) than if I go to the gym in the afternoon.
I've read that cardio in the morning, before eating breakfast, is good for fat loss, but does that apply to a "full" workout with weight lifting and cardio (HIIT) too?


Meg
03-22-2008, 10:02 PM
Lalala, there really isn't any "one size fits all" answer. :) It all depends on what works for you when you go to the gym. If you feel weak, then by all means eat something (protein + carb) before you go, but time it so that it's digested a bit. On the other hand, if you feel queasy when you work out after eating, then don't.

I work out at 5:30 am and do both weights and cardio on an empty stomach. Breakfast is my reward for working out! Honestly, I feel queasy working out with food in my stomach (could it be the HIIT cardio? :dizzy:) If ever I work out at a different time of day, I make sure it's been three hours since I've eaten due to the queasies. But that's just me!

What you eat after you work out is far more important than whether or not you eat before you go. Post-workout is the time that you want to hit your muscles with some protein for recovery and some good carbs. If you're ever going to eat starchy carbs, this is the time! Examples might be oatmeal and egg whites or a protein shake with fruit.

I think the reason that you're having a hard time finding the answer in your reading is because there isn't a right answer. So go with what works for you. :)

lalala123
03-22-2008, 10:14 PM
Thanks, Meg!

I was hoping there were some sort of "guidelines" for this.
I don't go to the gym as often as I should, so I'm afraid of doing something wrong and having to stop what I'm doing. - This happened to me once, I had some pizza (yes, I know, bad! :o but it was the most convenient thing I could find at the time), not enough to make me close to full, and after not even 10 min of cardio (not too intense) I had to stop because I felt horrible.

But I also remember feeling pretty weak once in school (years ago) when I went to a PE class without eating breakfast and we had to run around a lot. :dizzy:

I think the reason that you're having a hard time finding the answer in your reading is because there isn't a right answer.

This experimenting thing makes me kind of nervous, but I guess the positive side is that if there is no "right", there will also be no "wrong" (as long as I don't eat too much right before my workout) either, right? ;)


Depalma
03-22-2008, 10:18 PM
The fasted cardio vs. the fed cardio debate reaches almost religious of politcal proportions for some.

The fasted cardio people are adamant that in the absence of carbs, the body is forced to use even more stored body fat.

The fed cardio people insist that total caloric burn both during and after the exercise session is what counts and that intensity in a fasted state is not going to be as high as in a fed state.

Total calorie burn is what you are after for fat loss. Determine what is right for you. Remember that when looking for calorie burn, intensity trumps all. If you can do your cardio just as intensely in a fasted state than a fed state, then that is probably a good option for you. If you can work at a much higher rate in a fed state, then that is the better option. It depends on what you can handle in a fasted state. Also, take into account the compliance factor. Even if you can work out just as hard or harder fasted, but are miserable doing it and will soon abandon cardio completely, then in the long run, that is not a viable option even if it will give you the best short-term results.

As for weights, I have seen no debate saying to do this fasted. Resistance training is anaerobic and to accomplish this with the intensity you need, you need to make sure your glycogen stores are topped off as much as possible.

pre-workout, you want low-GI, slow-digesting carbs with some protein, to ensure that you have a nice steady, stream of energy to fuel your workout. You don't want fast-digesting carbs and have blood sugar spike and then crash in the middle of your workout. You generally should eat about 1-2 hours prior to workout.

Post-workout, you want fast-digesting carbs and protein to restore glycogen and to give your muscles the tools to repair while the stimulus is fresh and recovery is a priority. Recommendations are generally anywhere between 2:1 to 4:1 carbs to protein, but there are individual differences. See what works best for you.

lalala123
03-22-2008, 10:41 PM
The fasted cardio people are adamant that in the absence of carbs, the body is forced to use even more stored body fat.

But if you haven't eaten anything for 7 - 10 hours (depending on how long you sleep and how long you need from the time you wake up to when you start exercising), will your body have enough sugar stores so it won't have to use muscle protein to convert to sugars? :dizzy:

The fed cardio people insist that total caloric burn both during and after the exercise session is what counts and that intensity in a fasted state is not going to be as high as in a fed state.

This feels "righter" to me on an intuitive level. - Which doesn't mean I think this is right, just that it feels that way to me. :)


Thanks a lot, Depalma! As usual, your post was highly informative (and it doesn't hurt that you kind of confirmed what I was hoping to hear - breakfast makes me happy :D).

I'll make sure to always write down what I eat and when before a workout - that way I can compare how different foods/timings affect my workout.

Depalma
03-22-2008, 10:56 PM
[QUOTE]But if you haven't eaten anything for 7 - 10 hours (depending on how long you sleep and how long you need from the time you wake up to when you start exercising), will your body have enough sugar stores so it won't have to use muscle protein to convert to sugars? :dizzy:

This all depends on what your total nutrition looks like. For most people, this will not be an issue, your glycogen stores should be adequate for your cardio needs. Of course, if you are doing Atkins or another low-carb diet your glycogen stores may already be depleted. Of course, that is part of the point of a low-carb diet. In cases, where carbs are that depleted, I would recommend supplemental BCAAs, so when the body goes to convert amino acid to glycogen in absence of carbohydrates, they can pull some from the BCAAs instead of from muscle.




kind of confirmed what I was hoping to hear - breakfast makes me happy :D).

Then fed cardio is definitely for you. During workouts, Intensity trumps all and when it comes to a program, COMPLIANCE trumps all. Even if the fasted group is right and it burns a little bit more fat overall then fed cardio, no one can argue that fed cardio is much better than no cardio and if you are unhappy doing fasted cardio, no cardio is around the corner.

On the flip side, if someone feels bloated and gets nausea doing fed cardio, then fasted cardio is best for them, even if the fed cardio group is right.

baffled111
03-22-2008, 11:48 PM
Lalala, I've been trying to research this also and came to the conclusion that Meg offered: there are no answers to be found because there are no answers. Eat something if you prefer to eat something, don't if you don't. (And like Meg, breakfast is what I look forward to while I'm exercising.)

But, I did a personal experiment with this this morning. Since I've been doing the NROLW workouts + HIIT, my total gym time has increased in the mornings to about an 1 hour and 20 minutes, sometimes longer. If I don't eat before the gym I'm looking at an average of 11-12 hours in between feedings. I've been having a yogurt with some kashi or granola sprinkled on top before I go and that's been fine, but I don't want to spend the calories. Today I skipped the pre-workout snack and did the whole 10 min warm-up run, 55 mins of weights and 25 mins of HIIT on an empty stomach. I was actually completely fine. I had a late snack last night before sleep (I might have been out late drinking cocktails) so perhaps that helped, but I didn't notice a diminution in my workout capacity. This is excellent news: the 100 calories from the pre-workout snack can be consumed some other time. :)

OTOH, I went to the gym for some HIIT yesterday in the evening--directly after leaving a meeting during which I consumed wine, bread and cheese. It was NOT my finest 20 minutes of exercise. I kept getting tummy cramps and had to quit early. :(

lalala123
03-23-2008, 07:13 AM
In cases, where carbs are that depleted, I would recommend supplemental BCAAs,

What are BCAAs?
So many acronyms to learn! :lol:

Then fed cardio is definitely for you. During workouts, Intensity trumps all and when it comes to a program, COMPLIANCE trumps all.

I'll keep that in mind. :) Thank you.

OTOH, I went to the gym for some HIIT yesterday in the evening--directly after leaving a meeting during which I consumed wine, bread and cheese. It was NOT my finest 20 minutes of exercise. I kept getting tummy cramps and had to quit early. :(

That's what happened to me once too. It was horrible, I had to leave after just maybe 10 min, went home and all I wanted to do was lay down.
It did go away after a bit, but I was not happy that I had to stop before I had even really begun, and I'd been looking forward to the gym that day.

I think this is why I'm worrying about the food issue now, but if I think about it rationally, it's not that hard, I just should make sure I'm not between the two extremes of not eating anything and eating right before a workout.
Overthinking problems isn't helpful, I need to stop doing it. :)

Depalma
03-23-2008, 10:37 AM
BCAAs are Branched Chain Amino Acids.

You can get them in either capsule form (expensive) or powder (tastes like crap). They do have some flavored BCAA drinks like Xtend and Ice (but they still taste like crap).

Because of the cost and/or taste, it's really not a supplementation want or need for most people. Those who are doing intense or long-endurance workouts on depleted glycogen stores, such as those on very low carb diets, should probably consider them. As you, yourself alluded to, in the absence of sufficient glycogen, your body will, through the process of gluconeogenesis, make glucose from amino acids. So it has to turn to dietary protein (which diverts those incoming amino acids from repairing/rebuilding muscle) or it has to turn to the breaking down of skeletal muscle. Supplement amino acids provide another source of aminos for this process thus taking over the muscle sparing duties of carbohydrate.

lalala123
03-23-2008, 11:07 AM
This may be a dumb question, but why not just eat something protein rich instead of taking that, if it's expensive and tastes gross?

Depalma
03-23-2008, 12:15 PM
Speed. They are already broken down into amino acids. The body doesn't have to go through the timely process of breaking the protein down into amino acids.

Also, they do not come with hidden calories from non-protein sources.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not doing a Charles Poliquin and trying to get you to swallow handfuls of these things pre-, during, and post-workout. Only for people in severely depleted glycogen states, would I think these are worth the cost/lack of taste. I'm very much in favor of real food sources whenever possible.

lalala123
03-23-2008, 12:26 PM
Don't get me wrong. I'm not doing a Charles Poliquin and trying to get you to swallow handfuls of these things pre-, during, and post-workout.

I didn't take it that way. :)