As a sports nutritionist, I work with people whose workout regimens span a range of activity, from strength training and dance classes to racing in 5Ks and 50 milers.
While there's no question that my clients need tailored recommendations for fueling their activity, it amazes me how many of them don't eat properly before a workout. Even more concerning is the misguided idea among some that avoiding food before workouts is somehow better because it "helps the body burn more fat." False. In this post, I'll shed some light on fueling up for your best workout.
Fact: Your body needs energy to perform.
"If you can't fuel it, you can't do it." My colleague, fellow registered dietitian Leslie Schilling, once mentioned this phrase to me, and it's become my no-nonsense philosophy on fueling all exercise. It's this simple. Cars don't go far without adequate gas. Planes don't fly without jet fuel. Why would our body "machine" operate without food fuel?
Fueling up doesn't necessarily have to occur one hour before a morning workout -- it can take place the night before. Nancy Clark, another fellow dietician and author of "Sports Nutrition Guidebook," says that a bedtime snack can help to fuel a morning workout. I heeded that advice on a recent trip to Chicago when I enjoyed a piece of deep-dish pizza before hitting the sack. When I awoke at the hotel the next morning, I had enough energy to endure an hourlong jog on the Chicago waterfront. I just needed to hydrate. I had a great jog and was ready for a recovery smoothie after a quick shower. Typically, I would not opt for this plan, but I was out of town and it worked for me. When I'm home, I typically fuel up before a workout with 16 ounces of water and some fruit or toast with peanut butter, varying the amount of food depending on the extent of my workout. If you can't seem to make time to fuel up just before a morning workout, consider the bedtime snack option.