How To Power Your Workout!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Happy Monday Everyone!

I hope you had a fabulous weekend! E and I headed home to College Station for a wedding and a wedding shower. We had so much fun catching up with old friends and celebrating such an exciting time in four of our friends lives! :)

I did manage to squeeze in a 4 mile run on Sunday morning including a few sprint segments. There was actually a 1/2 marathon going on in College Station, so I had to be sure to stay out of the runners way. I saw a few of them from a far.

Today's topic is a reader request. My friend and reader Carolyn asked about pre and post workout fueling, and if all of the chemically engineered stuff you see on TV and in the vitamin stores is really necessary to get the most out of your workout. Do you really have to take 8 scoops (slight exaggeration) of some crazy powdered stuff called jack3d to get jacked?


If you are training for an elite fitness competition then maybe you need this stuff, but for the every day athlete you can get in all of your pre and post workout fueling effectively using real food. Don't get me wrong, I consume protein powder on a regular basis, but chemically engineered madness is not required to see results from your workouts. I try to eat whole food whenever possible.

When I started doing research for this post, I decided there was way too much information to include it all in one post. I decided it would be easier to digest (no pun intended) if I divided it up into pre-workout fueling and post-workout fueling.

There are many factors that play into what you eat before a workout including, when you workout, what type of workout your doing, when your last meal was, and how your stomach handles certain foods. Fueling is definitely something that varies person to person. Something that works for your best friend might now work for you at all. It is important to try different things until you find out what works for you. I will try and provide you some general tips to give you a good starting place!


The first thing to take into consideration is when you are working out. If you workout first thing in the morning you need to eat something that is light and easy to digest. On the other hand, if you workout in the afternoon and have a few hours to allow your food to digest, you have a little bit more wiggle room on what you eat. The closer you get to your workout, the more you want to focus on carbohydrates and less on protein and fat. Carbohydrates are broken down in the small intestine, whereas fat and protein are broken down in your stomach which can lead to indigestion and cramping.

A good rule of thumb is to keep a 3:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein and include a small amount of healthy fat in your pre-workout meal/snack. The actual amount of food you consume will vary based on how intense your workout will be and when you are working out. If you are going for a light run in the morning, you might simply need a banana with a small dab of peanut butter to get you going. However, if you are doing a very intense interval workout in the afternoon, you will need a substantial lunch to power you through your workout. It's also ok to skip your pre-workout meal if you are doing a less intense workout first thing in the morning. If you ate a substantial dinner the night before, you will have enough glycogen stored up in your muscles to get you through a workout, especially if it's 60 minutes or less. Unless my stomach is grumbling when I wake up, I hardly ever eat before my morning run.

If you are doing a longer workout, be sure to include quick-digesting, high-glycemic carbs for energy now, and slower-digesting, low-glycemic carbs for sustained energy. It is also important to keep your fluid needs in mind. You want to be sure to drink plenty of water before your workouts and consider including a sports drink to replenish electrolytes if you know you will be sweating a lot.


So what about caffeine before workouts? Caffeine has shown to significantly improve athletic performance when consumed before a workout.. Many people will drink a cup of coffee or green tea before their workouts, however I would not recommend downing an energy drink and then heading out for long run. This will not only upset your stomach, but too much caffeine can actually lead to increased adrenal fatigue and slower recovery times.

So with all that being said, what the heck should you eat before you workout? :)

Here are some of my favorite pre-workout snacks:
  • Banana with a tiny bit of peanut or almond butter
  • A small apple with a few almonds or almond butter
  • Small bowl of mixed berries with low-fat string cheese
  • A fresh slice of turkey and a cup of grapes
  • 1 slice of whole wheat or sprouted grain bread with a smear of nut butter
  • Low-fat yogurt (watch the sugar) and granola
  • Fruit smoothie with a scoop of protein powder of your choice
  • Homemade power snacks such as Chia Power Balls, or Raw Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
  • If whole foods are not an option, try to pick an energy bar with between 25-35 grams of carbs and 7-10 grams of protein. Also, try to watch the sugar, you want to keep this as low as possible.
To re-cap, you want easily digestible carbs, a little bit of protein, and not too much fiber or fat. Remember, it might taking a little trial and error to find your perfect pre-workout snack! Don't forget to drink plenty of water before, during and after your workout. This is just as important, if not more important than your food choices.

Q's and A's:
How was your weekend?
What is your favorite pre-workout snack?

In health,

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