I am often asked the question about eating before and after a training session. It’s a great question, the answer can make a huge difference in how you perform and recover.
As we all know, exercise requires energy. That energy comes from the body converting food to a substance called glucose, a type of sugar that the body uses for energy. Glucose is combined with oxygen to eventually form carbon dioxide and water yielding energy in the form of ATP (adenosine triphosphate). ATP transports chemical energy with cells for metabolism. The net result of all this is the contraction of muscle fibers within the body thus allowing us to move.
Your body can store up to 2,000 calories of glucose within your muscles and liver. This will hold you over for about 2.5 hours of continuous exercise assuming that you are fully loaded-up before you start. Once you have depleted your glucose reserves however, you crash. If this has ever happened to you, you know it can be quite scary and not fun.
So, if you plan on training at 5pm and the only thing you have eaten is a yogurt and coffee for breakfast, then you will most likely have a bad training session. The reason for this is that your glycogen stores are low by the time you get to the gym. Burning calories while training will deplete anything you have left and you run out of gas.
But wait a minute you say. I have all of this fat on my body that can be used for energy, right? That is true. We all have about 100,000 calories stored as fat. Here is the problem – fat needs to be converted to fuel before it can be used as energy. It is a rather complex process within the body and requires glucose in order to make it happen. There is an expression used in endurance training that says, “Fat burns in a carbohydrate fire”. In other words, fat can be used as an energy source in addition to glucose, but not alone.
The bottom line is that you should eat two to three hours before you train if you expect to be at your best. Foods to eat before training should be low in fat, moderate in carbs and protein, low in fiber, contain fluids, and are familiar/well tolerated by you. Same goes for after training. Your goal should be to replace the calories you burn during training within 45 minutes with high quality carbohydrates, protein, and a little fat.
Have additional questions? Ask us! The Elite Health Services Team is always here to help you be at your best.