This is the best way to avoid 'underfuelling' before you work out
We each have our own health and fitness journeys, but we can all agree that they are super difficult to stick to - no matter where we are in the journey. When you have a big event coming up, say a holiday or reunion and we think we haven't quite got where we need to be, this usually means doubling down on the lean meals and small portions and intensifying the exercise. But to what means?
If you’re frequently skipping meals or doubling up on workouts without significantly changing your meal plan, beware: your body is going to start begging you to eat more. Not eating or drinking enough before your workout doesn't just mess up your gains, it also puts your health at risk, increasing your chances of serious injury.
The real question is: how do you know how much to eat? Well, it all depends on what you're aiming for and whereabouts you feel you are in your journey. The key is to feel good about it and not to do anything unrealistic. You're not going to drop four sizes in a week, so don't abuse your body thinking you can.
NYC-based Sports Dietitian Natalie Rizzo says: “In reality, most guys shouldn’t pay attention to every little calorie in and out, unless they start to notice a significant drop or gain in weight. But you can get a good idea about whether or not you need to increase or decrease your calories and macronutrients based on your activity level and type of activity.”
Luckily, a lot of this is pretty intuitive: if you're doing more cardio/endurance-focused work, you should eat more carbs to keep you fuelled, while if you're doing a ton of strength training, you should eat more protein to keep your muscles from wearing down, Rizzo says. Because everyone's metabolism and activity level is different, a lot of it involves just listening to your body and figuring out what works best for you. Buy measuring cups to help fine tune your portions.
Want a little more accuracy that will help you know exactly how to avoid getting that exhausted, totally depleted feeling midway through your workout? There are a few things that can help with that too.
You should try to eat according to your fitness goals. What does that mean? At the very least, you should have a snack within an hour before your workout. But in terms of larger meals, that largely depends on what kind of workout you'll be doing.
For long bouts of endurance activity, opt for a carb-heavy meal two to three hours before a workout to give you the fuel to maintain your energy, says Rizzo. “A carb-heavy diet would include tons of fresh fruit, veggies, and whole grains," such as a pasta dish with cauliflower and chicken, she says.
For someone who wants to build muscle mass but doesn’t engage in much endurance activity, a more protein-heavy diet, featuring "lean meats, like turkey, chicken, fish, and other lean sources of protein, like eggs and legumes,” is best.
You also gotta drink plenty of fluids, not just the water that comes with the meal deal. “Many men don’t want to eat before exercise because they think the food will sit in their stomach and cause cramps and belly aches. But fuelling can be as simple as drinking an 8-ounce glass of 100% juice,” Rizzo says. Fluids you lose through sweat should be replaced with plenty of water.
All of this should help maximise what you get out of your workout, so do this a couple of times a week and you could see some abs sooner rather than later.