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Pre-workout nutrition: what to eat before a workout

Proteins, fats, carbohydrates.

Fat is not useful for providing the body with energy during exercise. Because of it, the absorption process will be slowed down, and blood circulation will be concentrated on digestion, while it is beneficial for the muscles. The fats supplied with low-carb foods will suffice.

Proteins are sources of amino acids, not energy. They are involved in building muscle after exercise. You can include turkey meat, chicken breast, brown rice, cereal bread, egg whites, vegetable side dishes, and oatmeal in the diet. It is worth eating more fish (not fried) and fermented milk products with a low percentage of fat.

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Carbohydrates are a good source of energy. But they must necessarily be complex, difficult to digest (fruits, vegetables, cereals), so that during and after training, they can gradually give energy to the brain and body.

Simple carbohydrates, found in sugary foods and starchy foods, cannot provide a long-term, stable supply of energy. Plus, they increase blood sugar and are quickly converted to fat stores. 

Good to know

  1. It is better to avoid food immediately before exercise, as the digestive organs will distract the body from physical activity.
  2. Don't train on an empty stomach. This means that you need to eat within 8 hours. Then the metabolism will turn on, accelerating metabolic processes.
  3. Keep track of your calorie intake and do not deviate from it. If nutrition is deficient, the body will slow down the metabolic rate. It will do this to restore the energy balance of energy and compensate for the lack of consumption. 

Can I train on an empty stomach? 

Before answering this question, you need to understand what hunger is.

It is customary to call hunger a situation when your body has not received food for more than 8 hours. For example, after sleeping or long-term refusal to eat during the day.

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Any of our active actions requires energy. The main source of this energy is food. If the body does not receive energy from food, it begins to compensate for it from its reserves.

There is a widespread belief that when fasting, the body begins to burn fat in order to replenish energy. Unused fat remains in reserve until next time. This is true, but not entirely.

In addition to fat, the body can burn protein in muscle, reducing muscle mass. This is especially bad for those who train to increase muscle volume. In addition, without food, cortisol can be produced, which also "eats" the muscles.

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On an empty stomach, you can exercise for a maximum of 20 minutes. And then only aerobic exercise, like cycling or running. 

Without food, the body can become severely weakened due to the drop in blood sugar levels. Weakness affects the decrease in concentration, contributes to the occurrence of dizziness, nausea and tremors in the limbs. In this condition, the risk of injury during training increases.

Therefore, we do not recommend exercising on an empty stomach. As this can lead to injury and deterioration of your health. Of course, the effect of exercising on an empty stomach may be different for everyone. Therefore, to begin with, we advise you to consult a specialist on this issue. 

Pre-workout nutrition

We recommend drinking a protein shake 30 minutes before your workout. The proportion of protein should be 0.22 g per 1 kg of your body weight. We recommend eating a fruit with a low hypoglycemic index with a protein shake. For example, an apple, pear, or berries.

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You can also drink strong coffee or tea without sugar 30 minutes before class. It promotes the production of epinephrine and norepinephrine, which are auxiliary hormones for the breakdown of fats. In this case, the maximum amount of fat will go into fuel, and glucose and amino acids will be preserved to a greater extent. 

Post-workout nutrition

We recommend eating protein foods 20 minutes after training. Since at this time, your body begins to actively convert carbohydrates and consume proteins for muscle recovery.

Any protein food is suitable, but high quality and not fatty. Since fat interferes with the flow of protein into the blood. The supply of protein at the moment is aimed at building muscle fibers, and its absence will lead to a decrease in muscle mass. 

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Workouts and water

In addition to the pre- and post-workout meals, you need to know when and how much water to drink.

Water is essential for our health. It speeds up metabolism, improves body performance, and promotes weight loss and muscle growth. Without it, residual water will accumulate in the body, cause swelling and worsen overall health.

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On average, experts recommend drinking 1.5-2 liters of water. However, this is only a reference number. For everyone, the water norm is individual and depends on various factors (age, level of physical activity, illness, and much more). You can calculate your water rate yourself or by consulting your doctor.

Before training
We recommend drinking approximately 0.5 liters of gas-free water before exercising.

During training
During exercise, you can drink water every 15 minutes. Take small sips to help the body absorb the water faster.

After workout
After physical exertion, the body can be dehydrated. To replenish fluid, drink about 3 glasses of gas-free water. 

Eat, drink, enjoy but first of all - stay healthy!

Cover photo by Derick McKinney on Unsplash

Julia Stecher is an award-winning fitness model, professional nutritionist, and certified personal trainer who provides personal training services in Zurich and online.

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