You've heard it a thousand times I'm sure. Daily exercise is an important part of your fitness success, but you've got to eat right to get, and SEE I might add, the results you want.
How should you eat to maximize your workouts, you might ask. While there have been some indications that working out early in the morning on an empty stomach could encourage weight loss, research has shown that most people have a hard time maintaining a hight level of intensity without a little fuel in their system.
My recommendation is that you experiment to find out what works for you. Whether you're training for a special event or just training for life, the MOST important thing to keep in mind prior to your workout is that you want your energy level up and your performance high so you can build shapely muscle and burn fat. Let your appetite and your performance tell you what to choose and when to do eat it.
That being said there are some things to consider when priming your body for optimal effort:
1. Eat 1 to 1.5 hours before your workout.
That way the fuel and nutrients will be available for your hard working muscles but you won't feel like you have a brick lying in your stomach. At the very least you may want to eat something a half hour before your workout.
2. Combine low fat, low fiber carbs and a little protein.
Carbs are your body's preferred fuel source so you'll need them in order to go hard. The protein can help you feel satiated so you can get through to your post-workout meal. More on that later. Also, the last thing you want is a full stomach so you'll want to choose something fairly light. One of my early morning pre-workout favs is sliced (just slightly green) banana topped with all-natural peanut butter.
More good choices -
~ Hummus and piece of whole wheat flat bread or raw veggies
~ Greek yogurt (Read your label though, many "popular" names include excessive sweeteners and fillers. Try Fage, Oikos or my fav Chobani)
~ Trail mix (preferably sulfite and sugar-free and raw)
~ Grapefruit and a hard boiled egg
~ Steel cut oatmeal with raw walnuts
~ Whole grain fig (or fruit) Newton-style bars
It goes without saying that you'll work up a good sweat so you need to make sure that your body is topped up before you begin. Not only can even slight dehydration cause headaches, it can also decrease your aerobic performance and cause an increase in your body temperature, heart rate and your perception of how hard you're working. Drink at 16-24 ounces starting 2 hours out from your workout. Early morning exercisers, a cup of water with lemon is a good start to your day.
4. Fuel is good, gas is bad.
Some exercisers thrive on cruciferous veggies like broccoli and cauliflower with their hummus, for instance. For others, however, CVs are the devil. I have a client whose belly hates bananas before a workout while mine is often not fond of any type of pre-workout melon. In short, trying to workout when you feel bloated and full can keep you from giving your best effort and no amount of raising your arms above your head will get rid of the problem, leading to the wasting of a perfectly good workout opportunity. Made worse by the fact that your time is precious so every workout counts. Know your body and save yourself the grief.
5. Nibble a snack, don't eat a meal.
Remember that the goal is to give you an energy boost. You may or may not need to eat depending on the timing of your other meals. If you eat a healthy lunch at noon, for instance, and your workout is scheduled for 3:00 PM you may not need to eat anything before. Again, let your appetite and your performance dictate your needs.