While this is not intended to be a long article, a topic was brought to my attention yesterday (yet again) and I feel it is worth briefly examining. During the winter months, it is very difficult to train outside. This is why I am forced to use the gym. Of course, weight training has numerous benefits which cannot be denied. However, there are certain situations which bother me when I am amongst other fitness enthusiasts. I witnessed an individual eating an energy bar high in carbohydrates and sugars immediately before working out. Was this individual serious? Such a practice is actually quite harmful to the body. Let us take a closer look at why.
A Bit of Blood Chemistry
It is first wise to briefly talk about the relationship between insulin, fast-loading carbohydrates and blood sugar levels from a very basic standpoint. Assuming that sugar or refined carbs are consumed, they will be absorbed immediately and cause a sudden spike in blood sugar levels. The body thereafter responds by increasing insulin production. The role of insulin is to bind to the sugars and to take them where they are needed the most (in terms of training, directly to the muscles). If too much sugar is consumed (or if we fail to exercise), this very same sugar is delivered to the fat stores of our body.
In an even more severe situation, the muscles may fail to recognise the presence of the insulin. As a result, the insulin and all associated sugar will once again be allocated to the fat storage areas of your body. This is known as insulin resistance and it will be discussed in a future article.
So, where does this leave us? Let’s imagine that you have just consumed sugar or fast-loading carbohydrates. Blood sugar levels begin to increase. This triggers the production of insulin to “cleanse” the blood. It should thereafter effectively transport the sugar to its ultimate destination. However, there is a slight problem with this scenario. In such a situation, the body tends to overcompensate; particularly when referring to a sudden and sharp rise in blood sugar levels. In other words, this immediate “insulin injection” causes such an efficient response that the levels of sugar within your blood will actually dip lower than normal.
Translated into the Real World
Let’s imagine that you consume foods extremely high in sugar (such as candies or cakes) before a workout. After the meal, you immediately begin training. Unfortunately, things do not go as planned. You feel a bit “off”, dizzy and lethargic. This makes no sense. After all, haven’t you just eaten?
This is nothing more than the overcompensation explained in the previous section. Your blood sugar levels have descended far into the “basement” in regards to normal readings. Anyone who has suddenly felt weak, tired and shaky knows exactly what I am referring to. While you will normally be able to head over to the locker room without any issues, there have been times when individuals can even collapse as the result of such a situation. The good news is that relatively few people approach an average workout by overloading on sugar. Still, why would anyone want to take the chance to begin with?
What is Recommended Before Training?
In essence, consuming almost anything before an exercise session is better than fast-loading carbohydrates. In the same respect, I am not recommending that you forego eating altogether. Eat approximately two hours before the session begins; regardless of your regimen. Let’s not forget that digestion is a rather slow process and that it takes time.
We should now take a look at morning workouts regardless of the time. My personal experience has shown that avoiding meals before a session can have negative health consequences such as:
- Feeling ill due to low blood sugar.
- Dramatically sacrificing performance levels due to a lack of physical strength.
Regardless of when you choose to exercise, always be sure to eat beforehand. Of course, you will need to take several variables into account. These include when the session takes place, how long the workout will last and what type of training that is being performed (cardiovascular routines versus weight training). This will dictate the type of foods that should be eaten. Here are a few additional suggestions to appreciate:
- Pre-workout meals should be comprised of lighter nutrients that deliver sustainable sources of energy. Such a meal will often include protein, carbohydrates and relatively low levels of fat.
- Rice or pasta-based dishes which contain low levels of fat are recommended.
- If you want to work out on a relatively empty stomach, light foods such as bananas or a similar type of fruit are recommended.
Be sure to pay attention to your fluid intake throughout every stage of the exercise routine. This will help to stave off dehydration while ensuring your overall health. While water is the best choice, isotonic drinks may be used for high-intensity sessions. Always remember that post-workout recovery involves replenishing your fluids and filling an empty stomach. This is the best way to achieve gains and to witness very real results. On a final note, do not be afraid of obesity if you are an extremely active individual. Dare to eat foods containing appreciable levels of fat and protein.