“Should I eat before I exercise? Or is it too soon before? How much should I have? Maybe I should just eat after, but will I have enough energy? I’m really hungry!”
We’ve all had this internal battle before hitting the gym or pounding the pavements on a run. It seems as though the fed or fasted debate is never ending. The most important thing however, is to discover what works best for our bodies and how we should fuel to get the most out of our training sessions. In turn, this will help us to step closer to our goals. So, here’s some food for thought on the topic…
Fed or fasted?
The body uses glycogen (stored carbohydrates) for energy during exercise. After 10 hours of fasting (not eating) your glycogen stores are M.I.A, meaning your body will turn to its fat stores for energy. For this reason, many people trying to lose weight will exercise in a fasted state.
On the other hand, if your body is too depleted of glycogen, it may turn to muscle tissue for energy, which ultimately means less #gains. So, if the goal is to grow the booty, keep this in mind! There’s also the danger of feeling dizzy and lethargic mid workout if the body is struggling to find an energy source.
With this in mind, it’s a good idea to fuel yourself with a high-carbohydrate snack around two hours before exercise. This should give you right amount of energy for a solid workout, whether it’s HIIT or a long, slow run. If your goal is to lose weight, you want to tap in to your fat stores as quick as possible, so exercising in a fasted state might suit you best, but make sure you still have energy in the tank.
Remember, in terms of portions, size does matter when it comes to exercise! Your body will burn through it’s glycogen stores at a quicker rate doing HIIT as opposed to low intensity, so go bigger if you’re considering a HIIT session. But, if you go too big, your body will be working hard to digest the food, so your working muscles wont be the priority, meaning you won’t be able to work as hard (not to mention you might feel heavy and sluggish)!
It doesn’t end there though. How you re-fuel your body post workout is just as important as how you fuel it. Aim to eat within thirty minutes of finishing your workout, because your body’s ability to rebuild depleted glycogen stores and repair muscles is at its peak during this time. So load up a plate with protein and carb rich foods!
A personal favourite post-exercise meal is a bowl of oatmeal, topped with a dollop of peanut butter (for healthy fats and pure deliciousness). A classic meal of eggs on toast may be more your style, but ensure your bread of choice is dense with seeds and grains, and throw in some salmon for healthy fats and vegetables for vitamins. If you prefer to train in the evening, dinner should consume of a complex carbohydrate such as brown rice quinoa, or pasta and protein like chicken, fish or tofu. And of course, a load of veg!
In the debate of fed or fasted, no two people are the same — different things will work for different bodies and minds. The most important thing is to listen to your body and if you think it needs fuel, give it some!