Are you a routine exerciser who has a routine of not eating before you get moving? Understanding why you should be eating before your workout can make a dramatic difference in your overall mood, energy, focus, and performance. Nothing hits me harder than a client who tells me they don’t eat before exercising! In fact, it is easily in my top three habit fixes when it comes to getting client’s more noticeable results. I’m not here to preach about meal timing or feeding windows, quite frankly science isn’t even clear in these areas still. Instead, I want to talk about why we should all be educated on pre-workout nutrition and the very basics of its importance.
Opt For Pre-Workout CFP Balance
Before I get into the cool stuff and talking about what the three macronutrients actually do for our bodies when we exercise and why we need them, I want to talk a little bit about why we need ALL THREE. It’s easy to grab an apple or banana before heading out the door, maybe its a rice cake with peanut butter – – – what’s missing is a good balance between our carbs, fats, and proteins (CFPs). We want to make sure we are supporting our body’s energy needs with enough nutrition so we aren’t risking burning out physically and mentally, or even worse, tapping into our lean muscle mass for immediate energy needs. Give this past AITB a read highlighting the importance of carbs, fats, and proteins.
Power Up With Protein
A few months ago I put out a blog highlighting all the magical powers of protein. If you didn’t have a chance to read it, go forth and read it now by clicking here.
Consuming 30 grams of protein containing 2.5 grams of leucine before exercise will activate muscle protein synthesis (MPS). This is the process in which protein is produced to repair muscle damage and promote recovery. MPS is extremely important because it determines whether our body will be in a state of muscle building or muscle loss.
It also floods the bloodstream with essential amino acids at a time when the body needs them the most. EAAs are shown to improve and boost muscle-building capabilities while preventing further muscular damage, ultimately leading to more muscle gains!
Energize With Carbs
Carbohydrates are the body’s first fuel source for the central nervous system (CNS) and energy for working muscles! Making sure the body is readily supplied with carbs before exercise also enables fat metabolism.
Contrary to popular belief, carbs are important for both short and long training durations and improve both intensity and performance. What’s cooler than their ability to adapt to our body’s exercise timing? Carbs also tell our brain to preserve muscle and liver glycogen. This ultimately helps increase muscle retention which leads to muscle growth.
And Eat Those Healthy Fats
Dietary fats seem to be their own little beasty. Unlike protein and carb sources that have the ability to improve performance, fats neither improve nor lessen our ability to exercise at optimal levels. Their main purpose serves in the digestive process by slowing it down, which helps to maintain glucose (blood sugars) and insulin levels (the hormone responsible for maintaining blood sugar levels).
What Happens If I Don’t Eat A Pre-Workout Meal?
The almighty question! So now we know what happens when WE DO eat before exercise, but what if WE DON’T? Aside from feeling like a hungry slug, you can expect…
- Greater likelihood of hitting fatigue and burning out sooner during exercise
- Decreased strength and power output
- Increased risk for using muscle for fuel (aka skinny fat syndrome)
- Without proper nutrition, the body will search for the fastest and most accessible energy source and that can mean muscle mass. In turn, it may store body fat for future energy needs and survival. A result of the body’s inability to recognize a lack of food vs. starvation mode
- Drops in blood glucose, the only fuel the brain can directly use
- This can lead to brain fog and lack of focus, lightheadedness, muscle fatigue, nausea, and decreased exercise performance
- Lack of or loss in lean muscle mass gains
Interested in getting your workout nutrition down but not sure where to begin? Justin and I are here to help! As nutrition and fitness professionals, we understand body mechanics, the role nutrition plays, and how to figure out all the little details from pre-workout meal structure to maximizing nutrition throughout the day to fuel your body right. Send us an inquiry email today to learn more!