A question I get asked all the time is what should I eat before I workout? Way too often this question comes after someone has “bonked” during the warmup! What is bonking you ask? Ever see those triathlon or marathon runners trying to cross the line looking like they can barely walk? Well, this is due to a total breakdown of nutrition and metabolism in the body as it has run out of fuel to use for energy expenditure. It is not pretty but more often will manifest itself in a hypoglycemic state where the trainees blood sugar levels fall precipitously as they get into their routine. Weakness and the shakes set in as the body is no longer able to produce energy properly. This can kill a perfectly good workout quickly, and waste your first visit.
As it is, your first routine will leave your muscles depleted of their stored form of energy called Glycogen pretty quickly, but without any blood glucose circulating the problem gets worse fast. The way to minimize this is to have a good healthy meal of about 400-500 calories about 2-4 hours before hand. This insures that the meal will be digested and available for use to produce energy and will not be sitting in your digestive tract during your workout which can cause nausea. Although science may prescribe high glycemic energy drinks for professional athletes it is not necessary for most lifestyle clients especially if your goal is to lose weight. In fact more and more top professionals are moving away from any kind of carbonated beverage in favor of a quick protein drink with branch chain amino acids which can be converted into energy quickly.
If you like, about 1 hour before your routine you can have a small fruit snack such as an apple or pear. In addition, a protein drink with very few or no carbs but with branched chain amino acids would also be useful within an hour of your routine. We do not recommend dairy products in general but especially prior to your workout. Most individuals have a hard time digesting dairy products or may be mildly allergic to the proteins causing an excess of flem to build up during their workout. A good high protein bar would also suffice but be careful as many of these products have a high caloric density. You may want to eat half of the bar now and save half for later. Any of these products will help to insure stable energy conditions during your workout. If you ingest too much too close to your routine, it will be sitting undigested and unusable to you or it may spike your insulin levels too high causing a hypoglycemic (low blood sugar) state.
That being said for those who workout first thing in the morning and have no time to eat you will have to train the body to produce glucose as needed and become more efficient at using fats as an energy source. You will have to decide if you are enough of a morning person and can muster sufficient energy to make the most of your routine, but even here a quick protein drink even 20-30 minutes beforehand may be very useful. Get the most out of your workout by fueling your body properly beforehand.
Last but not least make sure you come in hydrated to avoid fatigue especially when training first thing in the morning or in a hot climate.