Myth: Training on an empty stomach is an effective way to force your body to burn fat.
After all, with no calories in the tank, your body should pull from its fat reserves, right?
However, according to Darryn S. Willoughby, Ph.D., C.S.C.S., director of the Exercise and Biochemical Nutrition Laboratory at Baylor University in Texas, exercising when you are hungry does not necessarily translate to weight loss – it depends on the intensity of your workout.
“Most people have enough glycogen to fuel them for that duration of exercise, and fat is also being mobilised and oxidised at a faster rate than carbohydrates at this lower intensity,” explains Katie Kissane, R.D., C.S.S.D., a sports nutritionist. However, if you are going for a high-intensity workout, your performance will suffer from skipping carbs beforehand.
“It is not possible to mobilise fat stores and burn enough fat during higher-intensity exercise to provide a steady state of fuel, so once the body runs out of carbohydrates, it will no longer be able to continue working at that intensity,” says Kissane.
Not eating anything before working out also puts more stress on your body, and that stress causes the release of cortisol, which leads your body to break down muscle to use protein as fuel.
The American College of Sports Medicine says, “Adequate food and fluid should be consumed before, during, and after exercise to help maintain blood glucose concentration during exercise, maximise exercise performance, and improve recovery time.”
Here are some pre-workout foods you can eat before hitting the gym:
Bananas are packed with fast acting carbohydrates that will provide you with enough fuel and energy before your workout. It is also rich in potassium which aids in maintaining muscle and nerve function. People who usually like to workout in the morning would usually take a banana before going to the gym.
The best thing about bananas is that it can be taken 5 – 10 minutes before your workout. Add it into one of your pre-workout foods.
Or drink it daily with our recipe for banana peel tea!
Oats are high in fibre, and fibre facilitates a slow and steady release of carbohydrate into your bloodstream. This helps to supply energy throughout your workout.
If you like your food with a lot of flavours, try adding in some fruits into your oats. You can even make use of cinnamon powder to add some kick to your oats, as cinnamon can help boost your metabolism, doubling the effect of your workout.
Also known as the garbanzo beans, chickpeas are incredibly good to eat before your workout. It is also pretty easy to make as no cooking is required. Studies have also shown that consuming chickpeas increases your energy, which is what we need for a good workout.
4. Egg whites
Egg whites are cholesterol-free, sugar-free, and is a great source of protein for muscle growth and muscle recovery.
Why not the whole egg?
Apparently, the egg yolk in eggs is metabolised slowly which makes us feel bloated and sluggish during our workout. This is why egg whites is a better option to take before your workout.
5. Chicken breast
If you are looking at working out right after lunch, you would want to eat something that would sit well and provide you with sufficient fuel. Chicken breast provides just that. And to add to the list, it also has protein in it which is important for muscle growth and muscle repair right after your workout.
Not sure how to eat it? You can grill it, steam it, or boil it! If eating plain chicken breast is not enough for you, add some healthy carbs like brown rice.
6. Brown rice
Brown rice contains complex carbohydrates which are usually found in whole-grains and vegetables. It is great to add brown rice into your pre-workout foods as the complex carbohydrates in brown rice are turned into glucose in the body which are then used as energy.
7. Greek yoghurt
What is so special about Greek yoghurt?
Well, Greek yoghurt contains double the amount of protein than regular yoghurt. It is also known for its probiotic which helps to keep your digestive tract healthy. Not only that, Greek yoghurt also helps to strengthen your immune system while providing you with a boost of energy.
Most of us probably have not heard of the food Maca.
It is a Peruvian root that has been growing in popularity due to its many health benefits. Maca is a natural health supplement that has been seen to increase stamina and energy which is what we would need for a workout.
No idea how to use it? We recommend adding it to any smoothie or drink. Have it before your workout for some stamina and energy boost.
9. Dried fruits
Only have a few minutes before your workout? Not a problem. Have some dried fruits then!
Dried fruits are a great option to take before your workout. It is light and the simple carbs will provide you with energy for your workout. A few dried fruits that we recommend are pineapple and berries.
10. Wholegrain toast
Whole grains are rich in fibre. It provides a slow release and sustained energy throughout the workout. Top your toast with some egg, jam, or plain yoghurt. If you like, add some cinnamon powder to add some kick to your toast and speed up your metabolism at the same time.