Fuel For Thought (Stacia Naquin)

By: Stacia Naquin
By: Stacia Naquin

Working out on an empty stomach? Not a good idea. Your body needs fuel!

Everyone has their workout habits... cardio first, then weights... upper body one day, lower body the next... the list goes on.

We also have our PRE-workout habits. But there's one we should all take note of. Eating.
I have to eat before I workout. Not a lot, but a little something. I literally feel like I'm running on empty if I don't.
But I've worked out with lots of folks who make an effort NOT to eat before a workout (even first thing in the morning). I remember specifically in college, a friend of mine telling me she didn't want to eat before our morning workout because she wanted to burn YESTERDAY'S calories.
Certified Personal Trainer Andrea Cespedes says that's a common myth... emphasis on the MYTH. "The fact is you need fuel to move and will move more and burn more calories overall with a little something in your tank," she says.
So what kind of fuel? Andrea tells me it depends on a few things: when you are working out, what type of workout you are doing and how long you plan on going.
Here are her fueling tips for 4 different kinds of workouts:
1. Early morning cardio/strength workout lasting an hour or less: choose a very small snack that your stomach can tolerate first thing--avoid acids (like OJ) and fats (like Peanut butter or cheese) as they may not agree with exercise and an empty stomach. Go for a banana (or even 1/2), a light yogurt or 1/2 of an energy bar. If you absolutely cannot tolerate food, try drinking 16 oz of a sports drink or a sports gel (about 100 calories).
2. Mid morning/afternoon cardio/strength workout: eat a similar light snack prior to exercising if it has been three hours or more since your last meal. A banana and a half ounce of raw almonds is a good idea, or try a smoothie made with a 1/2 frozen banana, strawberries and soy milk.
3. Long cardio session lasting more than an hour: Powerbar performance bars and Clif bars for convenience-but look for ones that have less than 250 calories each and contain a balance of protein and carbs, and make sure they are low in saturated fat. A 1/2 cup of oatmeal with a splash of almond milk is a good, non-processed option as is a handful of raisins mixed with sunflower seeds.
4. Hard-core strength training only: Go for a serving of protein prior to your workout. A few slices of nitrate-free deli meat or a couple scrambled eggs help provide you with essential amino acids you need to help muscles begin synthesizing. You can also try a scoop of whey protein powder mixed with water or milk as a pre-strength workout snack. 
Andrea also had a really important tip about sports bars and sports drinks. She says they're for LONG sessions only and not just 30-45 minutes in the gym. Otherwise, it can be counter-productive. "Avoid the extra calories and choose water and whole foods whenever possible," says Andrea.
It makes sense if you think about it... different kinds of fuel for different kinds of workouts. Just remember to get something in your tank! I guess you could say - it's fuel for thought.
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