Press | Search | Contact Us | Login | Register | En Espanol

By: Lindsay Maurath   Date: 6/17/10

Fitting in weekly workouts is challenging enough without adding nutrition into the mix, but the next time you pack your gym bag you may want to think about throwing in a granola bar.  Despite recent media coverage, a snack may be just as important as your sneakers in making the most of your workout.  The argument over a pre-workout snack has long been the subject of debate.  To eat or not to eat, how much, what and when are common questions that come up in the discussion. 

Recent findings from a study at the University of Birmingham, published online in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, have been creeping their way into popular health magazines and newspaper columns nationwide.  The headline typically goes something like this: Skip food before workout, burn more fat!  This statement certainly is an attention grabber, but it doesn’t tell the whole story.

The researchers aimed to investigate the effects of low muscle glycogen (the storage form of blood sugar) on physiology and performance.  Glycogen becomes low as a result of not eating.  In other words, they wanted to find out what happens during a workout when the snack or meal before hand is skipped.  It turns out that the rate of fat oxidation or ‘burning’ increases.  But before you abandon your pre-workout snack for good there are a few facts about this research and physical activity in general that you may want to consider:

• This study used trained endurance athletes and was not designed to create general recommendations for the public. 

• Fat oxidation, or ‘burning’, is a rate that takes into account a piece of the total energy used for exercise.  If an individual does not eat they will likely experience greater fatigue during the workout resulting in shorter and/or less intense activity.  In turn, fewer total calories are burned and less total fat is burned during the workout.

• Low blood sugar can cause dizziness, nausea, headaches and may contribute to poor recovery.  These negative effects can be deterrents to continuing a workout regimen.

When you feel good, both mentally and physically, you get the most out of your workout.  A snack might be just the thing you need for a boost of energy to power you through and perform your best.  Some general rules of thumb for pre-workout snacks include choosing foods that are: familiar and well-tolerated, low in fat and fiber, moderately high in carbohydrates and under 300 calories.  The ideal is a light snack that provides energy without causing any digestive problems like nausea or cramping.  Finally, adding a bit of protein will help with muscle recovery.  Some good options include string cheese and crackers, bananas, low fat yogurt or milk, granola bars and toast with peanut butter. To leave time for digestion, try to eat your snack 30 minutes or more before your workout. 

These recommendations are for your average 30-60 minute workout and should be used as suggestions and not hard fast rules.  Eating and drinking surrounding physical activity should be individualized based on experience.  It is best to try new things when you have the time to evaluate their effectiveness and really determine how your body reacts-mentally and physically.  If something works, stick with it.  You are the best compass in determining what works for you.
 
Personally, I don’t like eating before early morning workouts (before 8 am) because it makes me nauseous, but I definitely have a snack before late morning, afternoon or evening workouts.  Typically I will eat low fat Greek yogurt or a banana and a granola bar.  These foods give me the energy I need without filling me up too much.  If I don’t eat anything I feel light headed and know I’m not able to put forth my best effort.  After testing out different strategies for eating before a workout I’ve come to the conclusion that this works for me, for you it may be different.

How do you feel during a workout when you are running on empty?

What is your favorite pre-workout snack?


 

Tags:

7 comment(s) so far...

Re: The Pre-Workout Snack: To Eat or Not to Eat?

I absolutely agree with that. Another great snack to eat if you are worried about feeling nauseous is whole wheat toast with a little peanut butter or jelly. Thanks for the good information!

By Gretchen on   Monday, June 21, 2010

Re: The Pre-Workout Snack: To Eat or Not to Eat?

I like having a bowl of cereal or a yogurt before a morning workout.

Good stuff, Lindsay! :)

By Stephanie on   Monday, June 21, 2010

Re: The Pre-Workout Snack: To Eat or Not to Eat?

Working out first thing in the morning, before any food/drink intake, burns more fat. However, this article fails to realize reality. If you have a fixed amount of time to workout in the morning (say, 30 minutes of aerobic activity) before you have to get ready and go to work, your body will burn more fat on an empty stomach rather than if you ate. Sure, it may be a challenge to get through the workout, but these people can't workout longer anyway, since they are on a fixed time. So, it holds true that to burn more fat (if you're an early riser/exerciser), you need to do it before eating anything.

By Ellen on   Monday, June 21, 2010

Re: The Pre-Workout Snack: To Eat or Not to Eat?

That's a very good point Ellen, thanks for the comment. Both duration and intensity are part of the equation, exercising on an empty stomach does increase fat burning if you are able to keep up the same intensity as if you had eaten. For some people, the thought of burning more fat is motivation enough to push through a difficult workout and this can be beneficial if you are able to keep it up. The key here is deciding what works for you and what will keep you on track with your weight loss and physical activity goals.

--Lindsay Maurath

By Lindsay on   Monday, June 21, 2010

The Pre-Workout Snack: To Eat or Not to Eat?

Through the years, dieting has become one of the most popular means of controlling weight to most overweight people in the world. Although there are seemingly countless testimonies of its effects, many experts agree that there are also side effects when controlling weight is not administered properly. What you need to know about diet and dieting. Dieting refers to the practice of eating or drinking in a regulated manner in order to achieve a specific short-term objective of gaining and or losing size or weight \"diet\" on the other hand refers to the habit of nutritional consumption and focuses more on a long-term goal.
# foodinsight Blog

By TrackBack on   Thursday, January 13, 2011

Re: The Pre-Workout Snack: To Eat or Not to Eat?

very informative post. i see that you have researched alot on this. i have also read many articles about pre-exercise meal and have been practicing them for about a year now. its hard to find what food combination suits me at first but as as soon as i found out what goes for me, all went well.

By lindard on   Thursday, January 13, 2011

Re: The Pre-Workout Snack: To Eat or Not to Eat?

The right combination of pre-workout meals and pre-workout supplements can be tricky, good info! "If you have a fixed amount of time to workout in the morning (say, 30 minutes of aerobic activity) before you have to get ready and go to work, your body will burn more fat on an empty stomach rather than if you ate" This may be true, but so many trainers have emphasized the importance of eating within an hour of waking. I can't imagine not eating and working out will get the same results.

By USP Labs Yok3d on   Friday, July 08, 2011

Your name:
Your email:
(Optional) Email used only to show Gravatar.
Your website:
Title:
Comment:
Security Code
Enter the code shown above in the box below
Add Comment   Cancel