To Eat or Not To Eat
By Lindsay Seamans
Edited by Doug Seamans
To Eat or Not to Eat? That is sometimes the question, and it really shouldn’t be. I’ve overheard some people talk about what they eat, or don’t eat, before their workouts. And yes, there is some confusion over what to eat or if you should eat at all pre-workout.
Eating before you workout, whether lifting weights or doing cardio, is essential (there is ONE exception, explained in a bit)! You need fuel to workout, just like your car needs fuel to go places. Not only will it help in your performance during your workout, it also helps you keep burning fat or repairing muscle long after your workout is finished. “Fasted Workouts” (not eating before you workout) actually harm your workouts. If your body doesn’t have fuel to burn, it turns towards bodily tissues to help get energy. Yes, fat cells are used, but so are your muscle cells. And while we know not all of you want big muscles, this can still be a problem when trying to lose weight. You NEED muscle to burn fat, it’s true, it REALLY REALLY is! Fitness models and bodybuilders have visible muscle and six packs because they lift big weight, but they also do a lot of cardio so you can see those muscles. Muscles burns 6 calories a day JUST to provide basic bodily functions, like eating, breathing, sleeping; fat cells only burn 2 calories a day. Again, that 6 and 2 calorie burn DOESN’T include things like working at your job or working out. No, this doesn’t sound like a huge difference, but if you add it all up, the difference is INTENSE! Don’t worry, that will be covered in a different article! Still not following? Look up Jamie Eason. She’s a fitness model who lifts HUGE weight, but is also petite and uber feminine (guys, don’t let your wives catch you looking her up!).
So what the hell does the above have to do with eating or not? I eat before AND after each workout (again, separate article on post-workout nutrition coming soon!). And this is why. A study was done by the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism where they tested 16 subjects on fasted and non-fasted workouts. Here’s what they found:
Workout 1: 8 men did 36 min of moderate cardio at 65% heart rate BEFORE eating
Workout 2: 8 men did 36 min of moderate cardio at 65% heart rate AFTER eating
The group that ate BEFORE the moderate cardio session continued to burn significantly MORE calories up to 24 hours after the exercise bout.
The authors concluded that “when moderate endurance exercise is done to lose body fat, fasting before exercise does not enhance lipid utilization (fat use); rather, physical activity after a light meal is advisable.
So again, what the hell am I talking about?! I’m saying this: eating before you workout will not only help make your workouts better, but will actually help you to continue burning fat AFTER you workout. Without fuel, you can’t build the muscle to lose the weight you want, to look how you want. So I don’t ever want to hear anyone say anything ever again about not eating before your workouts. I’ve even done both. I’ve done fasted cardio in the morning, and non-fasted cardio in the morning. Not only do I feel better and stronger when I eat, I can also actually FEEL THE BURN all freaking day long! If you don’t know what the burn is, and don’t eat before you workout, guess what? You’re going about things ALL sorts of wrong. When I’ve done fasted cardio workouts, it SUCKS and I feel like SHIT! Plus, eating before workouts can also help you not get as sore!
So, what to eat before you workout: carbs! Protein shakes before you workout, especially when made with almond milk or milk, or ANYTHING with dairy for that matter, will seriously make you want to vomit (trust me). Carbs, especially those that are simple carbs like fruits, rice cakes, oat bran (gluten free), brown rice, sweet potato, peanut butter, and those AWESOME new Gatorade bites we sell in the gym, will digest quickly and are then converted into sugars that the body uses for energy (this doesn’t mean you can eat a candy bar before you workout.). A little protein will help too, but by a little, I mean NOT MUCH, like an ounce or 2 of almonds or another nut. You want to reserve most of the protein for after your workout. And once the sugar is gone, then the body looks to your FAT cells to use for fuel, it will still want some muscle cells, but your body doesn’t want fat, so it looks to those first! Doug and I eat veggies pre-workout, but we’re also in the muscle building game, not the weight loss game, so we’re a different story.
Oh yeah, that exception I mentioned above? There is a purpose for doing fasted cardio, but that’s reserved for bodybuilders and fitness models around competition or photo shoot time, so don’t any of you worry about this…unless that’s your goal. But then you don’t need to worry about that until the time comes.