To Eat or Not to Eat Before Exercise

There are conflicting scientific opinions on this question.  Some say you burn more fat exercising on an empty stomach and others disagree.

Muscles usually get their energy from carbohydrates, which is why pro-athletes eat alot of food before a race.   But if you haven’t eaten before exercising, your body doesn’t have many carbohydrates in reserve. That forces it to burn fat instead, some scientists say.

Other experts say that even though people may burn more fat this way, it is mostly fat within the muscles that will be lost and won’t make a big difference to people trying to lose weight.

Most of these studies are done on young, healthy MEN.

My take, since we are not professional young male athletes, EAT something before exercise!

1.  Without enough fuel, you won’t get the intensity of training you need to get improvements.

2.  If your blood sugar is low, you could wind up getting dizzy and you might not be able to exercise as well as if you were well-nourished.

3.  Not eating before exercise might make you more prone to injury.

4. Eating is important so the body has enough nutrients to recover from a bout of exercise.

5. When you postpone breakfast to exercise, it is possible you might eat more afterward.

My recommendation:

If you exercise in the morning, get up early enough to eat breakfast — that may mean one to two hours before your workout. Most of the energy you got from dinner the previous night is used up by morning, and your blood sugar may be low. If you don’t eat, you may feel sluggish or lightheaded when you exercise. If you plan to exercise within an hour after breakfast, eat a lighter breakfast to raise your blood sugar. Good breakfast options include:

  • Oatmeal with protein powder and fruit
  • Low-fat cottage cheese and fruit
  • Egg white omelette and veggies
  • Protein bar or shake
  • Hard boiled egg

If you’re not a fan of eating in the morning before you work out, try a protein drink or protein bar. And remember, if you normally have coffee in the mornings, a cup before your workout is probably OK. Just don’t try any foods or drinks for the first time before a workout, or you risk an upset stomach.

Be careful not to overdo it when it comes to how much you eat before exercise.

The general guideline:

Large meals: Eat these at least 3 – 4 hours before exercising.

Small meals: Eat these 2-3 hours before exercising.

Small SNACKS: Eat these an hour before exercising.

Eating too much before you exercise can leave you feeling sluggish, or worse, with a case of diarrhea or stomach cramps. Eating too little may not give you the energy to keep you feeling strong throughout your workout.

Protein shake recipes, breakfast tacos and protein waffles on my website.

I prefer to exercise in the morning and get it off my to-do list  I have a 1/2 cup of coffee with low fat almond milk, and a 100 calorie protein bar.  One hour later I go to a spin class or hit the eliptical and weights.  I have enough energy and strength to do one hour of exercise and I am not starving afterwards.

We are all different, but I have found most women do better eating a little something before working out.   And don’t forget to drink water!

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