Friday, April 3, 2009

WHAT to Eat Before Working Out

Last week I talked about “when” to eat if you’re working out. I also briefed over what fuels your body the best, so this week I wanted to give some examples.

First of all, you need to remember that the closer you get to your workout the fewer calories you should eat. You don’t want to workout on a full stomach. It takes the body four to six hours to digest fat, about three hours to digest protein and about two hours to digest carbohydrates. This is why it is recommended to eat very little protein and fat in your meal or snack as you get closer to your workout. Carbs get digested so much faster, and fruit even faster than that (it leaves the digestive track within 30 minutes).

So, here are a few rules of thumb to follow: If your workout is four hours away, eat a regular meal that combines protein, fat and carbohydrates, then follow this with a small carbohydrate-rich snack closer to your exercise session to tide you over (this is where I would eat a piece of fruit like a banana). Three hours before working out, make it a smaller meal and lighten up a bit on the protein and fat. Thirty to 90 minutes before exercise, have a snack of easily digested carbohydrates (see below). If you only have the 15 minutes between, say, leaving your office and hitting the gym to grab something, go for a sports drink or a few Saltines. Also keep in mind that while eating high-fiber foods is important for good health, they're best eaten after or long before exercise, since they can cause bloating and other annoyances that will make you feel uncomfortable when working out. If you can save your higher fiber food until after you’ve completed your workouts.

*** When I say sports drink that means one that it loaded with sugar. There are reasonable ones out there. Sure, their going to have sugar but you don’t want a TON of sugar. Sugar turns into carbs and when you drinking it before a workout it turns into fuel, but you don’t want to go overboard.

Ten snack ideas before a workout:

The snack should contain 40 to 100 grams of carbohydrates, and low in fat. Too much fiber may stimulate the digestive system at an inappropriate time.

  • Milk and 12 crackers, 2 tbsp. peanut butter (54 grams carb)
  • Banana and yogurt (56 grams)
  • Bagel with jelly and juice (83 grams)
  • Cereal (1 oz.) and milk (34 grams)
  • Juice and pretzels (50 grams)
  • Sports drink, 16 oz (30 grams)
  • Sports bar and water (20-50 grams)
  • Fresh fruits such as oranges or bananas, mango, watermelon (15-25 grams per)
  • Low-fat vegetable soup, chicken noodle or tomato and crackers (40-50 grams)
  • Blueberry muffin or fig bars and milk (45 grams)
  • Fruit juice
  • Pretzels
  • Bagels
  • Fruit smoothie

Some people do have a hard time exercising without eating first, especially if it’s been a long time since their last meal or snack. These individuals often are more sensitive to changes in their blood sugar levels, which fall during the first 15-20 minutes of workout. That drop in blood sugar can cause tiredness, mild dizziness, or even faintness—especially if your blood sugar was already low, but eating something beforehand can help prevent this. If you have health issues like diabetes or hypoglycemia that can cause low blood sugar, you’ll probably want to eat before your workout. If you get very hungry during a workout (and it interferes with your energy levels or focus), or become so intense after an exercise session that you end up overeating. These individuals should be eating before working out.

I am one of those people! I have chronically low blood sugar. To the point that I’ve collapsed in a Target after hitting the gym. Luckily this was “pre” kids. I now eat breakfast with my kiddos before I head off to the gym. I try to eat at least 2 hours before I go. Here are some things that I’ve been eating: Oatmeal topped with strawberries or blueberries, yogurt with a spoonful of crunchy granola, a veggie omelet with a slice of toast, an English muffin with 2 egg whites, Kashi cereal topped with blueberries. Carbs are good here since the body digests them more easily than protein. If I have less time than the 2 hours before going to the gym, I don’t eat the choices that I higher in protein.

Ideally, try to eat enough calories to equal about half the calories you expect to burn during your upcoming workout. So if you burn about 600 calories during your workout, aim for at least 300 calories during this meal, or a little more if your exercise is “high intensity” (over 75% of your maximum heart rate). At least 50-60% of these calories should come from carbohydrates, which should keep your blood sugar and energy levels fairly stable during your exercise session. Include some protein to help prevent the breakdown of muscle for fuel and give your muscles a headstart on recovery after exercise. Some good food choices and combinations for this kind of meal include:

Fruit and yogurt
Cereals (with more than 3 grams of fiber) and milk
Trail mix with nuts and dried fruit
Hummus and raw veggies
Hard boiled eggs (or egg whites)
Cottage cheese and fruit
Half a peanut butter or turkey/chicken sandwich on whole grain bread
Whole grain crackers with nut butter or cheese
Whole grain fig (or fruit) Newton cookies
Milk (especially chocolate milk)
Tomato or vegetable juice
Yogurt smoothie (with added protein powder, if desired)
Most protein/energy bars

In the end, to lose weight you need to eat fewer calories than what you are burning. I know that sounds so easy, but honestly, it's not! ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Dont' forget to head over to God Speak's Today. It's Sandy's Fitness Friday post and she's always got something great to share.

Also, my fitness challenge post is right below this!

1 comment:

Sandy at God Speaks Today said...

Oh man...this was AWESOME, Sarah. I will refer to this often. I also have a hard time working out on an empty stomach. I used to in the early morning after a cup of coffee, but I also put cream and sugar in it. That's probably why it was OK. I usually have cereal and milk or a banana before a workout.

I learned a lot here. Thanks so much.