If you’re looking for something to eat before your workout, stop. Fitness gurus can argue about carbohydrates, protein, vegetables, or some miracle supplement, but medical science has delivered a definitive answer to the question of what you should eat and when. It’s like nothing you’ve ever heard before.
What should you eat before exercising?
Well… how about nothing?
While it is true that starchy carbohydrates, found in snacks such as bananas and oats, do provide slow-releasing energy which can enhance performance during a high intensity work-out, this is not actually relevant when it comes to losing fat.
Peter Aspel, Professor of Exercise Physiology at the Leuven University in Belgium, has found that those who fast before exercising lose more fat through that exercise than those who do not.
Mr. Aspel conducted an experiment wherein he instructed a team of seven people to cycle three days a week, followed by an intense exercise regime, one hour later, fasting in between. He then instructed a further seven people to complete the same program of exercise, but without fasting. The results of the experiment show that those who fasted prior to each exercise session lost more fat than those who did not.
If the body has modest resources of carbohydrates to draw on in order to fuel exercise, it will soon move on to burning (or “oxidizing”) the body’s fat reserves. Aspel recommends as much as six hours of fasting before such an exercise regime, in order to achieve optimum results. Therefore, the long-held belief by many athletes that a run before breakfast is a great way to burn fat holds steadfast, and has finally gained scientific support from a highly reputable source. If, due to your schedule, you are unable to fast for such a long period of time before exercise, it is still wise to maximize the amount of time that you go without eating before your exercise, anywhere up to the previously mentioned six hours. In short, this will all mean that any exercise which you then do will have the best chance of burning fat.
What’s the catch? You’re so cynical… but there are two. First of all – this is really hard. If you’re exercising on an empty stomach, it stands to reason that’s when your reserves of energy are at their absolute lowest! Ron Maughan, is a sports professor at Loughborough University in England, and USA Today interviewed him on this very subject. Here’s what he said. “That might help you get very good at burning fat, but you won’t be very good at whatever exercise it is you are doing. Without enough fuel, you won’t get the intensity of training you need to get improvements.”
Now far be it from me to disagree with a doctor (very far be it), but I think he’s only half right. During times like this, you’re going to have less energy – but speaking from personal experience, your body is just going to find a way to help you when times get tough. Think about the guys in the prehistoric ages who woke up hungry and had to chase down a giant saber-toothed tiger or something! Think they were tired? You bet. But did they find a way to survive? You bet. That extreme burst of energy comes from something Ori Holfmeker calls “The Sympathetic Nervous System”, and when you munch on a donut before your morning workout, you’re wasting that sympathy like a guy prank calling from his hospital bed.
An Incoming Danger?
Needless to say, this approach takes discipline the first few times. It’s often the case that if one puts oneself through a lengthy period of self-discipline, then one is more susceptible to blowing it at a later time. If someone is to fast six hours prior to exercising, this person will be more likely to indulge in what they have been depriving themselves of later on in the day. What we’re saying here is: don’t start gorging yourself as soon as the workout is over! Of course, this adds to the argument that the best time to fast is the time that people normally and most naturally fast, anyway: during sleep. If you fast during your sleep, you will be far less aware of such – if at all – and less tempted to indulge, later in the day.
In other words, a short, intense, early morning workout before you eat is often the best way to start your day.
At this stage, you may be feeling as if this plan might not be for you: that it is too difficult or that it is simply not suited to you, whether that be due to concerns over your age or any health concerns which you may have. But the truth is that this is a useful way for people of all ages, shapes and sizes to organize their exercising. In fact, Professor Aspel asserted that this process of exercising will even help people who are suffering from diabetes. This is because fasting before exercising produces muscles which are better suited to absorbing glucose, a process which is essential for the treatment of diabetes.
This might seem like a drastic change to your current regime, but it’s really important that you not dramatically increase the workload that you’ve already got going. Take this program and tailor the ideas to your individual needs. Why? Because you’re going to maximize the benefits of whatever system you’re following. That means there’s no need to overwhelm yourself with a program which does not reflect your current needs, strengths and weaknesses.