1/13/15

Pre-workout fueling - part II



Pre-workout fuel
Training is your gut is one the most (if not the most) important concepts when it comes to perfecting your pre-workout/race snack/meal. Eating before every workout (30-90 minutes before) will not only help boost your performance (ex. time to fatigue, mental focus, recovery and energy production) but you will also recognize what foods work/digest the best so that you can use those similar foods, in a larger quantity, on race day.
Karel and I eat before every workout, every day in our season. Absolutely no workout is started without some type of pre-workout snack. 

If you aren't use to (or comfortable with) eating before a workout, start very small in terms of quantity and carbohydrates for 7-10 days by selecting the most appropriate low-residue food/foods that you feel will work the best, depending on the workout.

You may find that your pre-workout snacks may vary workout to workout and that is ok but try to keep it simple and have no more than 5 staple "go-to" pre workout snack items.
It is perfectly fine to add a little fat/protein (which do take a little longer to digest) but the idea is to prioritize energy dense foods that pack a lot of carbohydrates, without a lot of fiber or volume.
Overtime, you will likely develop greater gut tolerance to food before a workout, which is ultimately the goal for every athlete. Instead of feeling restricted by food, train your gut to accept key foods before workouts. 
If you ever hear/see an athlete who can eat almost anything before a workout/race and perform fantastically well without GI issues, well let's assume that that athletes has a very resilient gut. 

How much fuel? 
To help get you started:
  • ~120-200 calories (~30-40g of carbs + a few optional grams of protein/fat) before a 45-90 minute workout. Consumed at least 30 minutes before the workout (although the quicker to digest, like a glass of juice, you may be good to go within 15 minutes - however, I still encourage time to get your body/mind warmed-up before the workout).
  • ~150-250 calories  (~30-50g of carbs + a few grams protein/fat) before a 90 minute - 2.5 hour workout. Consumed at least 30 minutes before the workout.
  • ~200-350 calories (~40-70g carbs + 10-15g protein/fat) before a 2.5-3.5 hour workout. Consumed at least 45 minutes before the workout.
  • ~300-450 calories (~50-90g carbohydrates + 10-15g protein/fat) before a 3.5+ hour workout. Consumed at least 45-60 minutes before the workout. 
Always include at least 8 ounce water with your pre-workout snack to help with digestion.
I also advocate consuming sport nutrition (electrolytes, carbohydrates, fluids) during all workouts over 60 minutes (ex. sport drink or water/gel).


Pre-workout carbohydrate-rich fuel options
Some of my favorites to dress-up with a smear of nut butter and cinnamon: 
Saltines
Rice cake
Banana
Cream of wheat
Wasa cracker

Topped with:
Honey
Maple Syrup
Raisins
Granola


Rice or rice-based cereal
Puffed cereal
Pancakes/waffles from refined flour
100% Fruit juice
Soup (broth-like)
Refined bread/crackers
Grits/instant oats
Applesauce (or applesauce packets)
Cooked/soft fruits (or without the skin)
Cooked veggies (ex. potatoes)


You are probably surprised to see a few of these recommendations like refined food or juice because as I mentioned in my last blog post, these foods are not associated with "healthy eating".  But keep in mind that as athletes, we have to take care of our gut as we fuel for performance and despite some of these options not being "healthy" for the average individual in the daily diet, they are extremely easy to digest (and find) before a workout and can certainly help minimize the risk for GI distress/issues during training/racing. 

In summary, it is imperative that you understand how to separate sport nutrition vs healthy eating. and apply this concept to your daily life and workout routine. 

I hope you found this helpful as it is one of the most popular topics that I discuss with young athletes (and their parents) and during my nutrition lectures as well as when I work with profession/elite athletes and age groupers.  I find that for the "new" athletes, fitness enthusiasts who explain that they can't stomach anything before a workout or individuals seeking body composition changes, this is often a topic that is hard to apply as it is far from what society views as healthy eating.

I am all about real food whenever possible so consider my pre-workout options as "real" as you can get without compromising gut health.  Remember that your pre-workout/race snack should be easy to find, easy to prepare and easy to consume.  If you want to make your own options of some of these items, that would be fantastic but don't overwhelm yourself at first. I want you to make sure you are finding it easy to fuel around workouts so that you can dedicate a lot of your extra energy to preparing and consuming a very balanced, real food "healthy" diet throughout the day. 

 I am excited to hear how your next few workouts go with your new pre-workout fueling tips as you should be feeling lighter, cleaner and most of all, working out with an energized body that has a happy gut.  

Any questions or concerns, just send me a message via Trimarnicoach.com (contact page).