Eating Before Exercise
Whenever I work out in the morning, I always have something to eat beforehand. I give myself about an hour to wake up, eat and warm-up before I move into my workout and it’s what works for my body.
But that doesn’t mean it’s for everyone.
I know a lot of people who run really early or go to the gym without eating anything; then they scarf down a big breakfast afterward. That’s fine if that’s what works for them. I’ve tried doing that and learned the hard way that my body is not impressed with a tough workout without fuel. Whenever I visit my Aunt Sue in New Hampshire we hit up Planet Fitness around 5 or 6 a.m. One time I tried going sans food and nearly passed out on the arc trainer after 30 minutes.
Another time I tried just eating an apple and once again, after 30 minutes on the arc trainer I thought I was going to either pass out or throw up. I even had to go in the bathroom to make sure I didn’t throw up on any gym equipment! I didn’t actually vomit, but it wasn’t an experience I’d like to repeat.
Since then, I’ve done a lot of experimenting with different types of breakfasts to see what works best for me. How big of a breakfast should I have? How little? What kind of food? How much to drink? I changed each variable one at a time until I found what gave me the most productive workout. I felt like I was a scientist performing an experiment on myself 🙂
The results? When I go for a run that’s five miles or less, I’ll eat one slice of whole wheat toast or a bagel thin with a thin layer of natural peanut butter and a banana. If I’m running more than five miles, I’ll throw in another slice of toast. Sometimes I get bored with the same thing though, so I swap out the banana for a thin layer of jelly instead.
If I’m going to the gym, I’ll eat oatmeal with some type of fruit mixed in: strawberries, blueberries, apples with cinnamon, whatever. For some reason the oatmeal sits with me better when I do some warm-up cardio and then hit the weights hard. I recently tested out overnight oats before heading to the gym and this was a success as well!
As for drinks, I only have water beforehand. I don’t drink coffee and milk doesn’t sit well before a workout. Bring on the chocolate milk afterward, though! If I run farther than 5 miles, I make sure to carry water or Gatorade with me, and I always have a full water bottle when I’m at the gym.
I’ve done some research on the topic and it seems as though scientists argue about which is the better choice. Based on the articles I read, it looks like the decision ultimately depends on what your fitness goals are. Are you overweight and looking to burn more fat? If so, working out without fuel beforehand might be the best route for you because “studies suggest exercising while your body is low on food may be a good way to trim excess fat.”
I’m more interested in completing an intense workout than trimming fat, so this article suggests that I’m right in deciding to eat more. A professor of sport, exercise and health sciences at Loughborough University in Britain was quoted in the MSNBC article saying that exercise on an empty stomach “might help you get very good at burning fat, but you won’t be very good at whatever exercise it is you’re doing. Without enough fuel, you won’t get the intensity of training you need to get improvements.” I want to improve my strength and stamina, so bring on the breakfast!
What about you? Do you eat before a morning workout? What foods are best for your body?