Clean Eating

Fuel Your Fitness

WHAT TO EAT… Before You Train

These days, the most frequent question you’ll hear on the gym floor is not, “How much can you bench?” but rather “To fast … or not to fast?” That is the question. And the answer is, well, a bit complicated.

The research is split on whether or not intermittent fasting is best for performance training. If your goal is to lose weight, working out first thing in the morning on an empty stomach may be helpful. A 2018 review of 46 studies found that eating before training can boost your endurance while working out; it also found that exercising while in a fasted state causes the release of more free fatty acids into your bloodstream, indicating improved fat burning.

Harley Pasternak, MS, nutrition expert and celebrity trainer, agrees that obsessing about pre-workout nutrition isn’t necessary for your average gym-goer. “You do not need a pre-workout meal unless you’re training for a sport or for performance,” he says. “Focus on three meals and two snacks a day, and then decide where to put your exercise program in your day, not the other way around.” For those who choose to eat before working up a sweat, eat one to two hours ahead of your workout to ensure you have enough time to digest.

Another popular performance booster is caffeine. Some organizations, such as the National Collegiate Athletic Association, even recommend caffeine limits for athletes. “Caffeine does seem to be a very well-established ergogenic aid (think stamina increasing), but on an individual level people need to experiment and see what works for them in terms of [when and how much to consume],” says Krista Scott-Dixon, PhD, director of curriculum at Precision Nutrition, a web-based nutrition coaching and certification community.

To test if fasting and/or caffeine improve your performance, try eating a mini meal, such as our easy chia pudding, one hour before your workout. Then, the next time you hit the gym, don’t eat anything beforehand. Keep a record of what you experience, says Scott-Dixon, taking note of anything else that may affect your results,

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