Burping noxious flavors is my primary concern when deciding what to eat pre-workout. I know some athletes carb-load while others swear by fasted-state cardio and still others strive for a balanced meal 1-3 hours before getting their sweat on. And let’s not forget the smoothie/shake contingent! (The difference between a workout smoothie and a shake? Nothing except that women drink the former and men drink the latter.) But who cares about blood glucose levels if I’m regurgitating sausage and peppers between sets? Add in my fish-oil supplement and I might retch on the track. Therefore my pre-workout meals are generally pretty bland. Oh and I learned to avoid soy products the hard way when my gaseous emissions nearly asphyxiated an entire TurboKick class. (Yes, 3 years later and I’m still apologizing for that one.)
The issue of what to eat to best fuel your workout came up as I was reading an interview with Kiefer John that Meanliving tweeted called “Females, Fat Loss and Performance.” The gist of the article is that the differences between the male and female body require different programs. He says, “Most of the recommendations women read in mainstream media are actually recommendations for male athletes that are blindly carried over and applied to women. That’s a huge problem.” His main two points of difference are that women shouldn’t eat carbs because we burn proportionately more fat than men and that we should do less cardio if we want to be lean. His science was a little sketchy but I know a lot of people that wouldn’t argue with his conclusions.
In regards to the first point he writes, “ The hormonal situations occurring when you first wake up creates an optimal environment for fat burning, the moment that you eat carbs this environment is ruined. That’s why I always tell everyone, ‘as soon as you get up, bacon and eggs, bacon and eggs’.
This idea that the body awakes from its overnight fast in a state particularly attuned to burn fat has been around for a long time. But is it true? According to one of my all-time fave fitness writers Tom Venuto (and the first one I ever fell in exercise-love with – his book Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle was my very first Great Fitness Experiment ever!), the research supports this theory.
- When you wake up in the morning after an overnight 8-12 hour fast, your body’s stores of glycogen are somewhat depleted. Doing cardio in this state causes your body to mobilize more fat because of the unavailability of glycogen.
- Eating causes a release of insulin. Insulin interferes with the mobilization of body fat. Less insulin is present in the morning; therefore, more body fat is burned when cardio is done in the morning.
- There is less carbohydrate (glucose) “floating around” in the bloodstream when you wake up after an overnight fast. With less glucose available, you will burn more fat.
- If you eat immediately before a workout, you have to burn off what you just ate first before tapping into stored body fat (and insulin is elevated after a meal.)