FUELLING Your Fitness: Why you should eat before you train

Blog Author
Harry Longworth
Date of post
9 June 2024
Blog Category

When it comes to achieving your fitness goals, what you eat and when you eat can be just as important as how you train. While some people swear by fasted workouts, there’s a growing body of evidence that suggests eating before you exercise can significantly enhance your performance and overall results. Here’s why you should consider having a pre-workout meal or snack before you hit the gym…

Why You Should Eat Before You Train:

Food Boosts Energy Levels

Food is fuel, and your body needs energy to perform at its best. Carbohydrates are the primary source of energy for your muscles during exercise. Eating a meal or snack that includes carbs before your workout can help replenish your glycogen stores, providing your muscles with the fuel they need to power through your session. Without adequate fuel, you may find yourself feeling fatigued or running out of energy halfway through your workout, which can hinder your performance and make it harder to reach your fitness goals.

Food Enhances Performance

Having a pre-workout meal can lead to better performance in both endurance and high-intensity workouts. When your muscles are well-fueled, you can exercise more intensely and for longer periods. This can translate to more effective workouts, allowing you to burn more calories, build more muscle, and improve your overall fitness level. Studies have shown that consuming carbohydrates before exercise can improve endurance and strength performance, making your workouts more productive and rewarding.

Food Prevents Muscle Breakdown

During exercise, especially intense or prolonged sessions, your body may start to break down muscle protein for energy if glycogen stores are depleted. Eating a balanced meal with protein before your workout can help prevent this muscle breakdown. Protein provides the amino acids needed for muscle repair and growth, which can enhance recovery and help you build lean muscle mass. This is particularly important for those looking to gain muscle or improve body composition.

Food Improves Recovery

What you eat before your workout can also impact how you feel afterward. Proper pre-workout nutrition can help reduce muscle soreness and speed up recovery. When you fuel your body with the right nutrients, you provide it with the building blocks needed to repair and rebuild muscle tissue. This can help you recover faster, reduce muscle soreness, and prepare your body for your next workout.

What to Eat Before a Workout

To maximise the benefits of pre-workout nutrition, aim to eat a balanced meal or snack about 30 minutes to 2 hours before exercising. Here are some ideas:

  • Carbohydrates: Bagels, porridge, overnight oats
  • Protein: Greek yogurt, eggs, protein shakes, bacon medallions
  • Healthy Fats: Avocado, nuts, dark chocolate

It’s also important to stay hydrated. Drinking water before and during your workout can help maintain optimal performance and prevent dehydration.

If you want to know more about how you can get the most out of your pre workout and post workout nutrition, read our blog post.

But, Can I Train Fasted?

Intermittent fasting (IF) has become a popular dietary strategy for weight loss, improved metabolic health, and longevity. However, whether you should work out during a fasting period is a topic of debate. Here’s some more info…

Benefits of Working Out While Fasting

Increased Fat Burning

When you work out in a fasted state, your body is more likely to use stored fat as fuel. With glycogen stores depleted, the body turns to fat for energy, which can enhance fat burning and potentially aid in weight loss and fat loss. This can be particularly beneficial for those looking to reduce body fat percentage.

Enhanced Growth Hormone Production

Fasting and exercise both independently increase the production of growth hormone. Growth hormone is essential for muscle repair, fat metabolism, and overall health. Working out while fasting can amplify this effect, potentially leading to improved muscle growth and fat loss over time.

Discipline

Training in a fasted state can build mental toughness and discipline. Pushing through a workout without the immediate comfort of food can enhance your resilience and mental strength, which can translate to other areas of life and training.

Drawbacks of Working Out While Fasting

Reduced Performance

Without adequate fuel, your workout performance may suffer. Fasted workouts can lead to decreased energy levels, strength, and endurance, making it harder to train at high intensities or for long durations. This can be particularly challenging for athletes or those engaging in strenuous exercise routines.

Muscle loss

There is a risk of muscle breakdown when working out in a fasted state. Without sufficient glycogen and amino acids available, your body might start breaking down muscle tissue for energy. This can be counterproductive if your goal is to build or maintain muscle mass.

Increased Fatigue and Risk of Injury

Fasting can lead to lower energy levels, which can increase the risk of fatigue and injury during workouts. If you feel weak or dizzy, you’re more likely to have poor form or make mistakes that could lead to injury.

Tips for Exercising While Intermittent Fasting

However, if you do decide to keep up the fast for your workout, here are some tips…

Listen to Your Body

Pay close attention to how your body feels during fasted workouts. If you experience dizziness, extreme fatigue, or any signs of low blood sugar, it might be better to eat before exercising.

Start Slow

If you’re new to intermittent fasting and fasted workouts, start with light to moderate exercise. Gradually increase the intensity as your body adapts to the new routine.

Stay Hydrated

Hydration is key, especially during fasting. Drink plenty of water before, during, and after your workout to maintain optimal performance and prevent dehydration.

Balanced Post-Workout Meal

Ensure your post-workout meal is balanced and nutritious, including protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats to aid recovery and muscle repair.

Whether you should work out while intermittent fasting depends on your personal goals, how your body responds, and the type of exercise you’re doing. While there are potential benefits, there are also drawbacks. It’s important to experiment and find what works best for you. 

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