Anyone who makes fitness a priority has experienced that moment when a slight tummy rumble comes along just as you head out to the gym. Pre-workout snacks shouldn’t make you feel stuffed but it is important to eat up, says Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, CSSD. In order fuel up properly pre-workout, it’s important to understand how the body uses energy.
Knowing how to best fuel your body can help you get the most out of every sweat session and get you one step closer to achieving your goals. As a general rule of thumb, when it comes to pre-workout eating, “you can time it any way you like, but the closer you get to a workout, the more simple the meal should be,” says Sass.
Is it better to exercise on an empty stomach so that you tap into your fat stores and burn them away?
While it is (debate-ably) true that exercise on an empty stomach allows you to burn fat during exercise, this does not translate to a reduction in body fat. Prime your body for exercise by choosing carbohydrate-rich foods for your pre-workout meal. I have always been an advocate for making regular physical activity and exercise a top priority through working towards bold and ambitious goals in all areas of life. Train with Amanda MasonTRAIN WITH AMANDA MASON’S GOAL IS TO EMPOWER YOU WITH THE SKILLS AND KNOWLEDGE TO ACHIEVE OPTIMAL HEALTH AND WELLNESS OF THE BODY, MIND AND SOUL. So you've started on your weight loss journey, your workouts are planned for the next eight weeks and you've started cleaning up your diet — junk food is out! However — yep, there's always a however — Jordan admits it's all about finding your balance. If your goal is performance-orientated you'll want to eat protein and carbohydrates together straight after exercising because you’ll want to replace the glycogen stores you've just used up. As a gym owner I get a lot of questions, but there are 5 questions that stand out because they are the most common question every member has at one point or another. The rest of my lunch (split up your lunch and eat half at lunch and half an hour before you leave work).
To do any powerful workout, like weight training, plyometrics, sprinting, or other explosive movements that require instant strength, you need to eat prior to your workout to fuel you through it. Aside from power lifters, bodybuilders and athletes who are training specifically for a sport, most people can follow a pretty generic format and get great results. If you follow this intensity scale, 12-15 reps can feel a LOT different than just playing the guessing game.
If you are worried about bulking up, then it’s even more important to keep your rest time low and your reps on the higher side. It only makes sense that if you eat a ton too close to a workout, your stomach will let you know about it. While your stomach is trying to digest and it’s getting shaken up, it can cause some serious cramps, bloating, and nausea. The only problem with working out in a fasting state is that some people (including me) can get dizzy and lethargic during an intense workout without something in their stomach. If you’re like me and you need a little something to give you some energy, you have to know your body and how resilient your stomach is. Get a feel for how your body responds to pre-workout meals so you can decide whether you’re able to fast, or if you need a small snack. This website is for informational purposes only and is in no way intended as medical counseling or medical advice. I had a Synergy member come to a workout one day and had to stop because she was going to puke.
Not only is cereal grains and dairy DEFINITELY NOT what we advocate as healthy to eat in our Synergy eating foundational principles, BUT this is probably the absolute worst to eat prior to a workout. Sooo… what then should you be eating before your workouts for best results AND to keep down your lunch so no one else sees what you were eating earlier that day? Sympathetic (aka fight or flight): When exercising body energy is focused on skeletal muscles. Parasympathetic (aka feed or breed): After a meal body focuses on digestion and absorption of nutrients. Your Post-Workout meal is actually quite important, however, and ensure you get one balanced with protein, healthy fats, and good carbs such as a sweet potato about 45 minutes post workout to begin your recovery. Download My eBook & Learn The Simple Secrets Of Achieving Rapid Fat Loss The Right Way!
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Chris Mohr, RD, PhD in exercise physiology, says the first source of energy, lasting just a few seconds, comes from the breakdown of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is naturally found in the body. If you eat two to three hours before, you’ll have time for your food to digest and be absorb from your GI tract into your blood. The amount of effort you put into your workout will dictate what you should be consuming prior to exercising.
Two or three hours before a moderate intensity workout, a somewhat complex meal like a sandwich on whole grain bread with lean protein, roasted vegetables and avocado is a good option because “you’ll have time for your food to get digested and absorbed from your GI tract into your blood,” says Sass. A quality nutrition bar (with ingredients you can pronounce) or homemade protein shake works wonders.

When the body is burning fat for fuel during exercise, it inevitably means that you are working out at a lower intensity (find out or look up your fat burning heart rate zone). When your body is using carbohydrate to fuel exercise, it means that you are burning more calories per minute. Focus your attention on protein-rich chicken, salmon, turkey, protein powder and Greek yogurt for after your workout when your muscles are more receptive to the powerful muscle-building affects of protein.
Carbohydrate powers exercise, especially high-intensity workouts like weight lifting. You can blow through your glycogen stores (carbohydrate stores) during a heavy lifting workout. When possible, give yourself at least 30 minutes to digest the food and absorb the nutrients. Experiment with which foods work best for your body. But did you know there's a correct way to get the most out of your workouts and it's got to do with how you fuel your body? For even better results, exercising as soon as you wake before breakfast will help you burn more fat because that’s the time your body's glucose levels are at their lowest — you see, your body burns glucose and fat when you exercise, so if you have low levels of glucose your body will burn more fat. If you're looking for weight loss results it's important to be strict with your post-workout eating. It's all about finding what works for you, but if you take the latter approach have a piece of fruit (like, a banana or some berries) straight after you exercise, and an egg or salmon with avocado 45 minutes later to complete your breakfast. Since each of these questions are very good questions, everyone would benefit from knowing the answer.
If you are approaching 15 reps and you can do a few more, you likely need to increase your weight or decrease your rest time.
If you learned something new today, be sure to share this with your friends – because the more people who know, the faster they’ll get results! They support the idea that if you workout while in a fasting state, your body will burn more fat. So if you want to burn body fat, it’s not a bad idea to go for a run in the morning while you have been fasting all night.
Upon vigorous exercise your body is trying to void the stomach of its contents so it can focus on your musculoskeletal system. We make it our core purpose to bring the experience of Kettlebells and educate our community on why training with them brings the most well-rounded fitness and faster fat loss results. Or skip the food to avoid stomach cramps and potentially “undo” everything you’re about to accomplish? Without food to fuel your workout, muscle tissue is instead converted into glucose to provide the energy you need, which isn’t ideal — whether you’re trying to build muscle or lose weight. Therefore, you can eat a more complex meal containing protein, fat and fiber, which take longer to break down.
On the contrary, if you plan to do the same workout within one to two hours, a small bowl of low-fiber, whole-grain cereal like puffed brown rice or corn flakes with organic skim milk or a plant-based milk is ideal.
For workouts with an hour or less lead-time, smaller snacks like Greek yogurt or low-fat chocolate milk are good options.
When carbohydrate isn’t available, your intensity drops, both physically and mentally.
I get to help people achieve their physical goals while tackling any mental obstacles standing in their way, it’s “mind over matter” in the best possible way. Let us help you get your eating and exercising down to a fine art, with the help of Transform Health founder and head trainer Jordan Ponder, and dietician Kiah Witney-Cochrane. If you skip breakfast and find you're exercising at only 40 percent you're not going to see results, so fuel your body right.
Coordinate your eating and exercise throughout the day, so you're eating two hours before any exercise.
Generally speaking though, a good balance of carbs, fat and protein will power most people through a moderate to vigorous strength workout. With that said, you should do weights before cardio if you are doing them at the same time.
And, while that can keep you healthy and active, it’s not going to give you the results you want. According to the rep continuum, you would have to reduce your weight a little to get more reps, but many women are reducing it a LOT – and working out at a much lower intensity than they are capable of. Basically, the focus needs to be on giving your body what it needs to start repairing the muscle that you just broke down in your workout. His degree is in health science and he's a certified personal trainer who loves helping people reach their goals. Aggressive Strength Recovery Oil helps us recover from our workouts faster, increase energy, reduce muscle soreness, lose some extra stomach fat and also it’s loaded with Magnesium, MSM and Zinc.
And if you do choose to fuel, should that be with a protein shake, an energy bar, a handful of nuts or a piece of fruit? Finally, during endurance training, the body starts to break down stored carbohydrates, called glycogen, to provide sustained energy.
You don’t want your body to be expending any extra energy on digestion when you need it to perform. The cereal will provide easy to digest calories for quick energy while the milk provides sustaining protein. And, if you do happen to find yourself heading out the door as your stomach starts to rumble, you can’t go wrong with a small piece of fruit, like an easy-to-digest banana.
Fat and fiber hold food in the stomach longer and with your sensitive stomach, you want the food that you eat before a workout to be digested and out of your gut when you start exercise.

There's the view that you should eat after exercising on the 45-minute mark, when your food stores have depleted.
However, our body requires little to no food before cardio (I explain more in the next question). These are high reps in comparison to bodybuilders, who may do only 8-12 reps, and powerlifters often do only 1-8 reps.
So, if you wait for your muscle to fully recover, you aren’t wearing it down like you should be. You can either have a protein shake immediately after your workout, or you can have a high-protein meal.
Then you can get a feel for how your body responds to pre-workout meals, because not everybody is the same when it comes to this.
She said that before she came she was hungry so she ate a big ‘ol bowl of Lucky Charms cereal.
The best thing that you can do for yourself is be extremely well hydrated and have an empty stomach for at least 2 hours prior to exercise. Not only is undigested food useless as fuel, it can feel heavy in your stomach, leading to cramps and sluggishness, she says. Oatmeal with a banana will provide the same benefits, according to Mohr, for individuals looking for a simpler meal option.
Choose a satisfying meal or snack, but keep the high calorie additions to a minimum if you are trying to lose body fat. It is my belief that exercise is a great opportunity to attain a mental and physical balance.
On the other hand it is suggested you eat your largest load of carbohydrates straight after you exercise, because they'll process through your body faster. Also, it’s helpful to have an idea of how many calories you burn (energy required) during your strength workout. I personally do 3 – 4 sets of 12-15 reps for upper body and 18-20 reps for lower body.
If you are eating your meal at night, I recommend a low-carb, high-protein, moderate-fat meal like a white meat, green veggie and a healthy fat (like olive oil or avocado). This might take some getting used to if you have not been acclimated to this yet, but you will experience much better results in the long run.
Kiah suggests snacking on a banana or a few berries: "Something carbohydrate-rich but not too heavy is best. Since I burn 250-300 calories during weight training alone (not including cardio), I limit my calories to 250-300 calories prior to weight training so I give my body no more than it needs to make it through the workout. By the time you finish your weight routine, you will likely be through all the calories so that, come cardio time, you will tap into fat stores for a good fat burning workout.
However, doing the right number of repetitions is meaningless if you are not working out at the correct intensity. In other words, your muscles can burn and you can be tired, but you still might be able to lift a few more reps. The more days you can train, the more I’d break up body parts so I am able to train every day without training the same body part 2 days in a row. Read Does Your Diet Need More Muscle? to learn more about how much protein you need and what to put in your shakes for best absorption. For example, if you’re planning on burning only 350 calories on the elliptical, a 200-calorie snack isn’t needed.
You don't want too much protein or fat because that will slow down the metabolism and you’ll get cramps while exercising," says Kiah. If you do cardio first, your cardio will just burn off your food (instead of fat), and you won’t have the energy you need to lift at the ideal intensity.
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) lays out how to determine the right intensity for you. For instance, if I only can train 3 times a week, I’d do 3 full body workouts every other day. And, as a general rule, if you’re going to exercise within a few hours of a meal, those are the times you may be better off skipping your pre-workout fare, says Sass.
Get more suggestions and tips on ways to pump up your workout from my blog, 20 Gym Boo Boos. For example, if all you can do is one rep using all your might to move that weight one time, you are working at 100%. Or, I’d do upper body one day, lower body the next and then a full-body that final day.
So, in order to do more reps, you would need to reduce your weight until you can get the number of reps needed. But if I were to train 5 days a week, I’d break it up even more, where I did individual body parts every day. Based on research, the following rep continuum has been established to help us know where our intensity should be.
Ultimately, your training schedule depends on how much time you have to train, as well as what your goal is.

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