Exercise is very important to me and to general wellbeing. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, for developing and maintaining cardiorespiratory, musculoskeletal, and neuromotor fitness, the average adult should engage in moderate exercise for at least 30 minutes, 5 or more times per week – or at least 150 minutes each week. We often hear about which nutrients to consume for recovery after a workout, and I often see people pounding protein shakes at the gym, but we don’t talk as often about what to eat before a workout.
In college, I boxed and tried martial arts; now, I run, yoga and CrossFit. This month, to mix up my routine, I joined a kickboxing training program. We meet at 6:00AM to work on techniques, box, and do a variety of functional activities for strengthening – and after one hour I am bushed! I have a very hard time eating early in the morning, but according to data from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, limited intake of carbohydrate impairs training intensity and duration. I see these effects sometimes: I don’t eat after dinner and if I don’t eat before a morning workout I feel sluggish. Since exercise requires energy and carbohydrate has roles in multiple energy pathways, providing substrate for muscular work from quick carbohydrate foods is a good choice. Every body is unique, and different activities, intensities, and durations require different amounts of energy and nutrients. I know that I perform better in an intense one-hour class or run if I eat between 100-200 calories beforehand. This morning I grabbed a medium pear, approximately 100 calories, on my way out the door and I felt great during class. Fruit is an easy choice for me since it is portable and I can grab it on the go, but some mornings I have a little protein, nuts or yogurt, with it. It took trial and error to figure out what works best for me, but you can figure it out, too. If you don’t generally eat before exercise, why not give it a shot and see if you get more from your workout? If you’re starting on a training program, consult with a sports dietitian for personalized eating plans.