The Difference Between a Meal and Pre Workout Fuel

general health nutrition the nutrition project Jun 15, 2020

The best way to get a good workout is to eat the right pre workout fuel.

Last week I was speaking with one of my clients and she mentioned having had a really bad run.

Personally, I don't think there is anything worse than a bad workout.

And, a great workout leaves you feeling empowered, inspired, and in command of your body.

I'm a scientist at heart, and know that there is often a cause for bad workouts. The challenge is figuring it out!

As I asked her a slew of questions, and she finally said that she was really baffled. She had eaten her usual lunch and ran her usual route.

Hold up....there was my clue.

"Did you eat lunch and then go for a run?" I asked.

"Yes. I had my usual grilled chicken salad just before." she said.

Tip #1 A grilled chicken salad is lunch...not pre workout fuel.

If you are interested in having great workouts, all the time, listen up.

Today I'm going to share with you some key concepts for eating to ensure you fuel yourself (and your workout) right.

There should be a big difference between your normal meals, and the types of things that you eat before (or immediately after) a workout.

When I learned this, everything changed...including how I performed and how my body looked.

I learned this strategy first hand. Would you believe that I made the same exact mistake that my client made?

In my early twenties I lived in New York City and loved to run in Central Park. I'll never forget the day I ate a grilled chicken salad just before an 8 mile run. It might have been the worst run in history, for all of mankind.

"But a grilled chicken salad is healthy, right!?"

Yes. It's a meal. But it's not ideal fuel before a workout. Here's why...

A great deal of energy and resources get dedicated to digestion upon eating. Fiber, fat, and volume all impact how quickly - or slowly - your body digests.

If energy is being directed to your stomach and intestines, there are fewer resources available for your workout.

The end result is that you'll feel sluggish, slow, and miserable if your body is busy with digestion.

Below I'll share my best tips on how to eat right before your workouts. A great place to begin is by realizing that breakfast, lunch and dinner are meals that should include healthy, high fiber foods with protein, high quality carbs, and some healthy fat. In general, the slower digesting foods, the better!

Before workouts, you want the exact opposite.

How to Eat to Fuel Your Workout Right

You can eat a healthy meal 2-3 hours before a workout, or a healthy snack 30-60 minutes before.

One of my golden rules is to never workout hungry or on empty. If it's been a few hours since your last meal and you're a bit hungry, you'll need to plan for a healthy snack, or alternatively, some pre workout fuel.

If you're unable to eat a proper snack 30-60 minutes prior, it's time for smart pre workout fuel.

Keys to Smart Pre Workout Fuel

  • 150-200 calories
  • As little fat as possible
  • The least amount of fiber as possible
  • Foods that are easy to digest
  • Foods that digest quickly
  • 60% carbohydrate and 40% protein

For foods that are easy to digest, it really depends on your body. What foods work well for you?

For foods that digest quickly, you'll want to choose...

  • Proteins: non-fat or low-fat dairy, egg whites, protein powder
  • Carbohydrates: higher glycemic index fruits like banana, mango or grapes, fruit juice, low fiber foods like quick cook oats, or sweet potatoes.

While this may seem counter to what many health experts tell you to eat, the truth is, eating for performance is very different than eating for health.

All day long you want to eat for health. But around your workout you want to eat for performance.

It takes a bit of getting used to. But I promise, if you strategize just a bit, and try hard, you'll be amazed how much better your workouts feel.

You'll also notice faster progress, less muscle soreness, fewer cravings, and less hunger.

Questions? I'd love to hear from you below.

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