Do you like lifting heavy things? How about running til your feet hurt? Or how about a spontaneous hike with your friends? All of these wonderful ways of moving your body require something very essential: FUEL.
It isn’t uncommon that I see athletes under-fueling themselves and wondering why they aren’t making the progress they want as fast. That’s because our bodies run primarily on glycogen! And where does that come from exactly? CARBOHYDRATES. And since carbohydrates are the fastest form of energy, they are essential for every living thing. Our brains alone need at LEAST 130g of carbs a day! So can you imagine how much you actually need if you are trying to lift 200 lbs or run to China and back?….A LOT.
When the body doesn’t have enough glycogen stores in the muscles and the liver, the body then turns to fat stores instead.And when there are not enough fat stores, protein from muscles are used as energy which is NOT healthy as it can lead to heart problems and even death. While using up fat stores may seem ideal for an overweight individual to lose weight, I would never recommend a super low-carb diet to anyone. It all comes down to the types of foods you are choosing to fuel your body with. Growing, healthy young adults need not to compare their needs to someone of that context as their needs are going to be different.
For me personally, I like to get my early morning workout in before breakfast or sometime in the morning. I never train fasted because I have found that my energy is way more sustained throughout my workout if I at least have a small snack beforehand.
These are some easy pre-workout snack ideas that I enjoy:
- 2 rice cake with peanut butter/jelly
- GoMacro vegan bars, Larabars, RX bars, really any little energy bar 😉
- 1 slice whole wheat toast with nut butter + banana
- Dates with nut butter (can you see a trend here, haha, i’m nutty)
- Protein smoothie with frozen banana, scoop of plant-based protein powder, cinnamon, ground flaxseed, maca powder, and sometimes cacao powder!
- My almond butter chocolate chip energy balls
- A few slices of cold cinnamon baked sweet potato that I usually bake the night before and stick in the fridge (aka perfection)
- Coconut water
- Cereal + fruit+ almond milk + MRM vegan cinnamon bun protein (right now I am loving Kashi cinnamon crumble cereal, Kashi dark chocolate karma wheat biscuits, Peanut butter puffins, and the ever so classic Cheerios!)
Really think about combing a good source of carbohydrates before with a little fat/protein to keep you from having a blood sugar crash mid workout. Having something small like in the list above 30-45 minutes before a workout is just enough time for it to digest a little to power you through!
And of course after, follow the same guidelines of eating a good quality source of carbohydrates with protein for muscle synthesis and a little fat. Personally, I love having a big breakfast to start my day and to keep my energy lasting so I don’t have the “afternoon slump”.
I have learned something about myself over the years of trail and error and that is to not ever compare your needs to someone else’s. Some people can do a fasted workout no problem, however, from what I have researched- the stress hormone, cortisol, is the highest in the morning. Eating in the morning helps lower cortisol levels which can help some who have hormonal imbalances. I strongly believe that healthy hormones play a huge role in the overall well-being of the body and I will do all it takes to keep it that way.
So tell me,
How do YOU fuel your fitness?