Everyone always asks me what they should eat prior to exercising in the morning vs. the afternoon vs. the evening. Pre-workout fuel has been a streaming conversation for years and while there are answers to this question, everyone is going to require a different answer depending on several variables. Here are some variables that you should consider when putting together your plan for pre-workout meals. Note that you should always get clearance from a doctor before engaging in any new physical activity or nutrition plan. For sample meals for your day, get the JZ Fitness Nutrition app (available on iTunes and Android), which has over 50 sample meals that will help you age well, feel amazing and maximize performance.
1) Are you taking medications? No matter what time you train in the day, you must eat something prior to exercise if you take meds. Some medications can affect blood pressure, blood sugars, heart beat, you name it. Don’t mess with your body. Having a meal that is low in fiber and fat, but higher in protein and carbohydrates will allow your body to shuttle sugar to the working muscles, keeping blood sugars regulated. The protein will help transport nutrients into the cells while exercising. Make sure you drink 8 oz of water prior and during your activity.
2) Are you pregnant? In this case, you will need food because when you exercise, you are fueling your own body’s metabolism and musculo-skeletal systems. If you don’t eat something light, then you won’t have enough fuel for your workout. Always listen to your body when you train. Some items to consider are a fruit and a light protein shake * (recipe below) . Remember, you are training and eating for two people. Do not deplete your systems. Pregnant women should never be on any weight loss plan!
3) Are you diabetic? You should always be checking your blood sugars throughout the day, especially in the AM if you workout then. Have a balanced meal with a low glycemic carbohydrate such as a fruit smoothie. Always carry sugar with you when you train. While I am not a big fan of sodas, I have a friend who is a medical doctor with type 1 diabetes. He carries a soda with him every time he trains. The type of sugar in soda empties into the blood stream quicker than a fruit would (and fruit juice for that matter). Please note that this is the ONLY condition to drink a soda. as I am very much against sodas otherwise.
4) Are you prone to hypoglycemia? Everyone decreases blood sugar levels through exercise, especially moderate to vigorous physical activity. With that said, hypoglycemia, or a drop in blood sugar, can lead to fainting, lightheadedness or even more severe consequences if not tended to. This is why I recommend eating small frequent meals throughout the day and using the JZ Fitness Nutrition app to choose balanced meals. Morning workouts should consist of a light protein shake* since it is easily digestible. Make sure you leave enough time prior to exercise because despite a shake being in liquid form, it still passes through the gut which should be cleared by the time you exercise to avoid gastritis.
5) If you train in the morning, do you leave more than an hour between eating and exercising? If not, start setting that alarm a bit earlier. Morning training is great because your metabolism is high and it sets up for wonderful benefits throughout the day. As I already mentioned, a light protein shake* is beneficial. Check out the JZ Fitness Nutrition app to learn about some easy to make shake recipes. Leave at least an hour between training and your shake.
6) How long are you training for? You don’t need a lot of calories and carbs for a workout that lasts less than an hour, unless it is high intensity interval training style (HIIT). HIIT is the only workout that requires carbs such as a fruit, brown rice, quinoa or oatmeal coupled with a protein. If you are overweight and looking to burn fat, then cut the grains altogether and allow your carbs to come from low glycemic fruits that are listed in my JZ Fitness Nutrition app.
7) What type of exercise will you be doing? (Cardio, strength, yoga, sports) The type of exercise you do will determine what you eat. There are several HIIT programs in my book, but if you want to experience a HIIT workout at its best, try an Orangetheory Fitness class. For this class, you should eat more carbs compared to if you did yoga, for example. In fact, Yoga is the ONLY methodology of exercise that you can skip breakfast to practice because the best conditions include not filling your gut up for when you practice. I practice hot yoga and we flow a lot. When I personally eat too much prior, it isn’t a pretty situation. I am bloated and can barely contract my abs. You never want this situation for your practice. So unless you practice during the day a few hours prior to practice, I say eat afterwards and just stay well hydrated during class.
At the end of the day, everyone is different. I recommend that you keep a food log to help you determine what types of food equate to optimal performance for you, so that you can learn your own rhythm and maximize your potential!
* JZ's Light Protein Shake:
Plant Based Powder or WHEY
Handful of Spinach
1 Cup of Unsweetened Almond Milk (Vanilla)
1 tbsp Peanut Butter
Jenn Zerling (“JZ”) is the wellness ambassador for Stay Fit Housing guests. JZ is a life-long athlete, lover of life and people, and wishes to help America break the chains of obesity. She provides customized nutrition coaching and fitness training services designed to help all guests optimize Stay Fit Living. JZ’s fitness and nutrition writings can be found in multiple media resources (including JZFitness.com), and her JZ Fitness Nutrition app is available on iTunes and Android.