Knowing you have a training session coming up, what should you eat? What fuel should you have in the tank to make that machine burn calories like the lamborghini it deserves to be (although all I’d love is a blue mini cooper S)?
Well , like filling up a car at the petrol station, there are various options -with various results. As for what we should put into out ‘tank’ before you hit the gym, footpath, beach, bike, pool, lounge room…..the same theory rings true.
While the pre-exercise meal is a point of interest, it is important to remember that your general eating or nutrition habits will also very much affect the way your awesome machine/ body performs. If your car engine insides (about as technical as I can get with cars…) are rusting or clogging up, it’s performance will certainly be suboptimal, perhaps slow and unforgiving. So if you generally fill your body with low grade fuel you can expect the results to be the same. You might feel sluggish, fatigue quickly and perform poorly (which is when personal trainers like to say ‘just give me 10 more’). Consuming food and fluid before exercise should be seen as an opportunity to fine-tune carbohydrate and fluid levels and to ensure you feel comfortable and confident.
But, let’s still look at that meal you have before you train:
Food consumed before exercise is only useful once it has been digested and absorbed. This means you need to time your food intake so that the fuel becomes available during the exercise period. So eating breakfast then starting your workout straight away isn’t really the way to go. This digestion time will depend on the type and quantity of food consumed. Generally, foods higher in fat, protein and fibre (like that butter chicken and naan you had at a client lunch, not to mention the glass of vino to go with….) tend to take longer to digest than other foods (like chicken and salad), and may increase the risk of stomach discomfort during exercise. According to the Australian Institute of Sport, a general guide is to have a meal about 3-4 hours before exercise or a lighter snack about 1-2 hours before exercise.
If you are eating a meal 3-4 hours before exercise, aim for a meal containing carbohydrate (fuel/ petrol/technical enough?) and protein (this will help level blood sugar levels due to insulin release).
baked beans on toast and a glass of milk (there’s your protein)
baked potato (YES a NORMAL,WHITE potato! How exciting!) with cottage cheese
bread roll (preferably not white) with cheese (little bit) and meat filling (or egg if you’re veggo, just some protein)
pasta or rice with vegetables and tuna or chicken
fruit salad with yoghurt and seeds
If you are eating a meal 1-2 hours before exercise, I suggest you keep it fairly small and simple. This way there is either very little or nothing in your stomach while training. Which also means there is less that can come back up to visit you DURING your session !
a banana and glass of milk
piece of rye bread and peanut butter
fruit and yoghurt
OK OK so you’re getting up at 6am to do a workout/ run/ swim/stair climb/ swing a hula hoop at 6:30am (perhaps hitting the snooze button until 6:25am?
No time to eat?
You are NOT going to die if you don’t eat anything! In fact, as I start most mornings at 5am, I don’t eat until about mid morning (if not lunch time!) and I’m still kicking (and punching). If you really are hungry or feel the need to eat something quickly, I say grab a piece of fruit and maybe some nuts or yoghurt. Certainly make sure you intake fluid (water) before you workout!
Again , listen to your body!