Ask Your Trainer: What Should I Eat Before and After I Train?

We’re back with another week of the Ask Your Trainer segment. We get this question a lot. “What should I eat before I train?”

Here’s our resident nutrition expert, Emily, with your answers:

Before Training:

You should try to  always eat something before you workout. What you eat depends on your individual tolerance.

Even a spoonful of almond butter or a half of a banana will be helpful. Try not to push your body on a completely empty stomach. You’ll be able to burn more calories in a session if you train after a solid meal or snack, and you’ll support muscle mass, which burns calories all day long just by sitting on your body.

On an empty stomach we tend to run out of gas during our workout, have brain fog and truly do not get the most out of our muscles.

There is lots of debate about working out on an empty stomach, one of which is that if you body is void of food, then it is void of glycogen, so your body will need to go to fat for energy.

Glycogen is the stored carbohydrate that your body uses as its preferred fuel source during exercise. The problem here is that the body doesn’t go to your fat stores. More often instead the body will go to your glucose rich muscles for an energy source, and save the fat for later.

Working out on an empty stomach will eventually lead to muscle breakdown.

Maintaining muscle =more fat burn.

So your best bet, have something to munch before you hit the gym. It doesn’t have to be much but something to get your body a little glycogen to convert to that energy rich glucose.

Try not to eat the hour or so before your workout. The ideal time to consume food is about two hours before the activity begins. Try to consume  protein, fat and complex carbohydrate will aid in your performance. Do not ever overeat!

Protein will help prevent more muscle damage than needed, it will also flood your blood with amino acids, this help build muscles, bigger and stronger.

Fat will assist in providing a little energy, without the blood sugar spike of a carbohydrate. Fats digest slowly so they help to maintain blood glucose and insulin levels and keeps you on an even keel.

Carbohydrate fuels your training and helps with recovery. It’s a popular misconception that you only need carbs if you’re engaging in a long (more than two hour) of endurance exercise. In reality, carbs can also enhance shorter term (one hour) high-intensity training.

So unless you’re just going for a quiet stroll, ensuring that you have some carbs in your system will improve high intensity performance. Preserves muscle and liver glycogen. This tells your brain that you are well fed, and helps increase muscle retention and growth. Stimulates the release of insulin. When combined with protein, this improves protein synthesis and prevents protein breakdown. Another reason why a mixed meal is a great idea. No sugary carb drinks required.

If you need to reach for something quick, roll some almond butter in oats on a spoon and head out the door. Or a protein shake with nut butter.

After Training:

After should always be protein & complex carbohydrate. Protein to aid in repairing/rebuilding muscle, and carbs to aid in building new muscle and to help get your body some glucose so you are not starving later. To make the most of your workout, eat within 2 hours prior to your sweat session.