It is important to know the type of workout you are about to complete. You might have a fridge full of tupperware pre-packed, portion controlled food, however this may not be the option for your body! Are you training your cardiovascular system (cardio training) or your anaerobic system (weights training)? What you eat before these types of workouts is very different.
Fuel: before cardiovascular training
There’s two parts here because it depends on your goal. Are you looking to burn fat during this session? or to improve/fuel for a fitness goal or event?
Goal: burning fat
It is important to eat your last carbohydrate based meal 2-3 hours before your cardio session, this will help you get into a fat burning zone quicker than eating a meal just before the workout. The reason for this has got to do with your blood sugar levels and your glycogen stores. When you eat a meal with carbohydrates your body will do one of two things 1) use carbohydrates as immediate fuel, for example if you eat a muesli bar just before a cardio workout, your body will use that carbohydrate first. 2) the body will store the carbohydrate in your muscle or liver for later use. Similar to a fridge, your body will put that carbohydrate away to be used as fuel for when you exert yourself. The first 30 minutes of a cardiovascular workout you will be burning your pre-existing carbohydrate stores. From the 60-90 minute mark of a cardiovascular workout you enter the optimum fat burning zone. So, if your goal is fat loss you want to ensure you leave some time between when you eat to when you do cardiovascular exercise.
*A useful tip to achieve fat loss results is to use branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) during cardio sessions while in a fasted state (for example adding BCAAs in your water and sipping while you are doing cardio first thing in the morning when you wake up). BCAAs will help you refrain from burning muscle, isn’t going to create an insulin spike, helps reduce fatigue, helps reduce soreness which can lead to better performance.
Goal: increase fitness and engage in longer, gruelling sessions
It is effective to fuel your body the night before by loading up on low GI carbohydrates (pasta, rice or sweet potatoes), while making sure to continue eating more low GI carbohydrates the day of the event. Having high GI carbohydrates throughout your sessions such as consuming a Gatorade/electrolyte drink, lollies or glucose gels can help keep your energy levels high and help prevent you from burning out.
Fuel: before resistance training (your anaerobic system)
This is an entirely different system now, so this approach will be different. It is important to fuel yourself up before hitting the weights if you are looking to achieve optimum performance.
For resistance training it is important to not leave a long gap between your last meal and when you will commence training. Some people can tolerate eating right before they do a weights session, however it is ultimately up to you. The important thing is that you are fuelled up! A balanced meal consisting of low GI carbohydrate, protein and healthy fats (avocado, almonds etc.) is ideal.
For those that are looking to go that EXTRA mile, supplementation consisting of creatine, pre-workouts & BCAAs can give you that edge!
Creatine: load it initially, by consuming 4 x 5g serves every day for 14 days. Your muscles will then be sufficiently saturated. After this, consume 1-2 x 5g maintenance dosages per day that you train.
Pre-workout: use 30 minutes before a workout. This is specially formulated to maximise your effectiveness, performance, motivation, focus & energy. This product is useful for people that have had a long day at work and are feeling a little low on energy levels - please ensure this isn’t because you haven’t eaten for a few hours!
BCAAs: For best results, consume: first thing in the morning, pre-workout, intra-workout and post-workout. This will help you refrain from burning muscle, reduce fatigue and help reduce soreness which leads to better performance.
Good luck and happy training!
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