What to Eat Before a Workout: Carbs, Fats or Both?

A balanced diet is always the best option but "balance" in this case doesn't mean "even"

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It is a well-known fact that people should eat healthy food, or at least have a smoothie or chocolate milk, within 30 minutes after a workout so the muscles can get the nutrients they need to recover. OK, but then, you may be thinking, you shouldn’t eat before exercising. Otherwise, aren’t you eating too much and too often? No, you’re not.

You need sugar (carbs) to exert energy so you can actually train well. Eating a nutritious snack about 45 minutes before hitting the gym is a great idea. That quick meal should include carbs and protein which means berries, yogurt, banana, almond butter, etc.

This is where another question pops up: Why did then a recent study say that a diet comprised of 85 percent fat can help improve overall performance for ultra-endurance more than the traditional high-carbs diet. You have to read it carefully to realize than the research talks about serious athletes – people who have to stay in shape and strong for a living (pretty much all professional football, basketball, soccer players, marathoners, etc.).

Another piece of possibly misleading information is clarified: When the authors say “fat” they mean the good kind – avocados, nuts and fish, as opposed to junk food and desserts. Know the difference.

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Since that leaves the average Joe out, what should he eat before working out?

Since most of us are not crazy active, we should consume less carbs, as recommended by Health Department. Before the body gets to burn fat it burns all of the carbs stored in the muscles and liver. But if we are sitting down most of the time, then not much of this energy will be used, leading to weight gain and other related problems.

Have a piece of fruit before a workout to stimulate insulin production to counteract cortisol, the hormone that can break down muscle.

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Fat takes the longest to digest; then it’s protein, followed by carbs. If you need the scientific term, it’s called Metabolic Flexibility. Thus, your pre-workout meal should be low on fat, moderate on protein, and high in healthy carbs (not bread or pasta). The good kind or carbohydrates can be found in veggies, whole fruits (bananas), legumes (green peas), potatoes and whole grains.

Another argument for carbs before working out: They give you the ability to do more. Doing more reps and lifting more weight means building muscle mass, which results in better performance, which means more energy is burned.

So if you are working on strength endurance, you absolutely need carbs before a workout. More fat (the healthy kind) is welcome before pure endurance events.

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