By Christopher Pregony, CSCS
There are so many questions when it comes to workout preparation. Should I eat before I work out? And if so, when? Will I burn more fat in a fasted state since my body doesn’t have any glucose to pull from? Should I stretch before or after my workout? All of these are very legitimate questions, and researchers have worked hard to give us the answers.
When and what should I eat before exercise? This is a VERY common question that I get probably once a week. The answer? It depends — everyone is different. The general guidelines are to eat one to two hours before you begin your exercise. I usually advise people to stay away from dairy or anything else that could potentially cause an upset stomach. A carb combined with a healthy fat is a great way to get immediate and sustained energy throughout the workout. Peanut butter and banana, oatmeal with dried fruit and nuts, and even some breakfast bars can work well before your workout. Protein is best saved for after your routine.
It is a common belief that if you work out on an empty stomach, you will burn a higher percentage of fat, and some initial research proved this correct. However, when you look a little deeper, the studies checked their participants only right after exercise. When they compared fed vs. fasted over a 24- hour period, the participants in the fed state actually had a higher caloric burn. In short, don’t skip your pre-workout meal. It will make your workout suffer and is shown to have little benefit overall.
Having a workout plan seems obvious enough, but many people go the gym without any direction. Make a plan and stick to it! Keep a log in a small notebook of what you plan to do so you are not walking aimlessly around the gym or worse, playing on your phone. If your goal is to work out five times per week, you should have an idea of what you are going to do on each of those days.
Remember that stretching before your workout should be done in the dynamic fashion. Move your body through the movements you intend to do. Traditional or static stretching, which involves holding poses for longer than 30 seconds, should be done after you are done with the workout.
Above all else, mental preparation is the most important pre-workout routine. You have to treat exercise as a gift and not a burden. Try to stay positive and look at the opportunity you have ahead of you. Allowing our bodies to work the way nature intended is a wonderful thing!