Eating before exercise

This topic contains 17 replies, has 11 voices, and was last updated by  dykask 6 years, 2 months ago.

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  • 6 days a week in the mornings, I get up have a cup of coffee (Decaf, powdered milk and brown sugar) and walk a mile to my local swimming pool where I swim for about 90 mins. I never eat before I swim and was wondering if I was doing the right thing?. is it better for the body to eat before exercise or not?

    This is a hotly debated area. However I personally think you are fine as long as you eat within a few hours after swimming. I now prefer to workout fasted and I’m developing muscles much better than I did in the past.

    I used to swim a lot about 15 years ago. I think it would be difficult to swim very hard after eating. Just my two cents.

    I admire your dedication. I used to run every morning and there were days it was hard. I don’t eat breakfast and two or three times a week I now go to the gym in the morning. My understanding is that it is good to exercise before eating. Your overnight fast should have consumed most, possibly all, of your freely available energy, so the body will have to go to the fat stores for energy. The sugar in your coffee will provide an instant energy source which you will have to burn first.

    Monday and Tuesday will be a 2 day water only fast and I am still going to the gym on both days. If I do a three day water only fast I will start to have problems with energy levels in an endurance exercise.

    Thanks for that!😎

    Definitely going to give the 5:2 diet a go and try my best to cut the sweet things out. 😎

    It really does depend on the size of your meal and how quickly your body can digest it.

    If you went to a Buffett and ate for an 1 hour straight, then yes, you should definitely wait a couple hours before working out. But if you ate a small sandwich and a banana flavored muffin, then you’re fine,treat it as a normal workout.

    I believe that the type of exercise you are doing determines the best eating strategy. I always do HIIT on a spin bike fasted and I don’t eat for 24 hours afterwards. I want to deplete my glycogen stores and get into ketosis as quickly as possible. Although I’m working hard I don’t damage the muscle.

    When I lift weights I eat before and after to be sure I have plenty of protein for muscle repair.

    There was a documentary (it was one of the “Trust I’m a Doctor” series) where they initially tested a brother and sister – eating before or after exercise. Then they attached them to one of those face contraptions for several hours to test how much fat was burned by measuring expelled breath (which is how most body fat that you burn leaves the body). They found opposite results with the brother and sister so they tried the same thing on a larger group and got the same gender difference.
    The basic conclusion was that women burn more fat if they eat before exercise and men if they don’t, but eat soon afterward.

    LJoyce, interesting but discouraging. As so many studies show exercise is not a good way to burn fat for men or women.

    I usually exercise very regularly but fat loss is not the reason why. My #1 reason is to maintain and build muscle, we can maintain our youthful muscle with resistance training. #2 is cardiovascular health, and #3 is to epigenetically turn on beneficial genes.

    Any fat loss is so to speak “gravy”

    Fat loss is all about diet.

    I have just been to the gym to put into effect the “exercise before eating” theory. It was their first day open this year so the place was full of people I didn’t recognise wearing T shirts with motivational slogans. Most of them will have stopped coming by the end of the month. At this time of the year their numbers are a nuisance, it gets crowded, but I am grateful to them – they pay a year’s subscription for a few visits and thus subsidise my membership. I was reading yesterday that an American Gym franchise whose branches have space for 300 members recruit an average of 3500 per branch every January on a $10 per month fee in the knowledge that they won’t come, but the fee is so small that they will never cancel because they might come.

    Just by way of variety I had breakfast – rolled oats, banana , honey – before going to the gym. It didn’t seem to make any difference to my performance. Weight loss, too soon to say.

    An ideal meal before a workout should be high in carbohydrates, moderate in proteins and low in fats.

    Basically, we need two macro nutrients before the workout. Carbohydrates (preferably complex carbohydrates as they provide energy for longer period of time) and proteins. This is because carbohydrates are best sources of energy. Eating protein helps improve muscle protein synthesis, prevent muscle damage and promotes recovery.

    Fats, because they slow down the absorption, should be kept to minimum before workouts.

    Here are 7 pre workout meal options that will help you lose fat and gain muscle.

    1. Chickpeas Chaat
    2. Orange oats
    3. Banana Peanut Butter Roti
    4. Egg white bhurji with roti
    5. Spinach Banana Oat Smoothie
    6. Customized Oatmeal
    7. Roasted Chana

    I am a convert to exercising in the fasted state – based on my own ‘study of one’! My 2hr yoga sessions start at 10am and my body does much better without breakfast on yoga days. Even one piece of toast increases the effort and sweat required to do the same poses. For those who are interested, I suggest you do your own ‘study of one’ to see how it works for you. It probably depends on when you exercise and what you do and the nature of the body you inhabit.

    I was reluctant to try exercising in the fasted state, thinking my body would struggle – I feel like an idiot for not trying it sooner!

    Cornish-jane. We all struggle with preconceptions. I was initially very sceptical about 5:2 because I first read about it in one of OH’s woman’s magazines. Only finding it recommended on a cancer research site persuaded me to give it a go. When I was a runner I believed in carb loading before endurance events and I spent a lot of time thinking about the correct pre-and post exercise foods before deciding that, unless you are a professional athlete, it doesn’t matter.

    Now that I am at my target weight I do one water fast every month, Sunday evening to noon Wednesday. I don’t change my exercise routine when fasting, so in that time I will do two gym sessions (some HIT, mostly weights) and one Pilates. There is very little, if any, difference in my performance when fasting. Even when not fasting I seldom eat breakfast, so it is usually 15 hours after my last meal when I hit the gym.

    Hi @anubiscats
    Can you give us an update about your experience with fasting and work-out since you posted your question?

    I run 10 km before breakfast. I swim on my FD (0 kc) after 24h of my fast. I have mixed feelings: I feel the battery running out at the end of the exercise, but I also have the impression that I get increasingly better at it. Maybe my body is increasingly better at making stored energy available? Could exercising fasted be actually good for training for a marathon?
    Anyone thoughts on that?

    That exercising fasted marathon prep is a very interesting question. Old time (ie the last time I did it!) theory was that you trained normally, then in the last week reduced your calorie intake until the night before when you carb loaded at the traditional pasta party. I was never convinced – that carb loading left me feeling heavy and decidedly un-energetic. Looking at primitive hunter-gatherer societies, they seem to run, or trot, vast distances after game. Only we and the various dogs are physically capable of that and neither of us does it unless we are hungry. The others are all sprinters.

    Nonsense and charlatanry abounds in theories about exercise, since there is very little empirical data out there. The reason for the lack of data is simple: who benefits from paying for the trials? Sure there are the poorly conducted ones run by supplement companies to agree with their conclusion that their product ‘works’, Although we’ll never know how many trials’ results were never released subject to publication bias.

    There is one good source of evidence-based info I have seen, this book:

    written by these people:

    There is some discussion of fasted training in there. Effectively you are always burning a combination of fat and sugars, and the effect of fasted training is to force your body to get a higher percentage of power from fat at all activity levels, not just ‘fat burning’ zone. It has an interesting exposition of why there is no such thing as a ‘fat burning zone’ in reality.

    Also some interesting results regarding carb-loading, saying that actually you add lots of water along with the glycogen so that aspect is a disbenefit. They have a protocol to follow which is supposed to deliver a mild benefit overall.

    Of course you’d be crazy to run the marathon fasted. Sure you have trained your body to burn proportionally more fat, but you want to be throwing enough carbs down to always have some spare floating around your bloodstream.

    In fact I never did the long training runs (3hrs plus) without taking some food with me. One of the points of the long run is to get your body and mind used to exertions over that distance, and if you are unable to complete it because you ran out of fuel then you haven’t really gained the specific training result you wanted.

    sw600. It grieves me to agree with you. Even in the more researched hard sciences the first questions we should always ask are “Who funded this work?” and “How large was the population they sampled?” Unfortunately there is a tendency to judge researchers by the number of papers they publish rather than the quality.

    Many of the machines in my gym still have aerobic and fat burning zones on their settings but you can’t trust the machines anyway. I have to lie to them about my age or they won’t let me work hard enough. An exercise bike that tells you to slow down can get seriously irritating.

    I haven’t bought a runner’s book for years because, as you say, there is an awful lot of nonsense in print but I’ll have a look at that one.

    Inexperienced newby looking for advice please.
    I’ve read all your comments but I’m still unsure wether to run (5-10k training runs, 3/4 days a week) on eating or fasting days.
    I’m starting my 5:2 programme this week and I’ve found your forum very interesting, I think I will probably be like the majority of you and just have water on my fasting days, I find it a real struggle to drop any weight according to my scales!
    Do any of you have giddy spells or woozy feelings when you are fasting. Sue.


    The best thing to do is try a run on a fast day and see how you cope with it.
    Research shows that women cope well if they exercise in a fasted state compared to men.
    I don’t run but I go to the gym 2 or 3 times a week and do an hour or so of cardio followed by resistance work and sometimes I swim afterwards. I have never had any issues with exercising in a fasted state, but I have found I need to drink more during exercise on fast days.
    It does depend on the time of day that you run on fast days. If you run in the mornings you’ll be burning off the previous nights dinner but if you run in the evening you’ll be using your glycogen store, and you might find it difficult in the first couple of weeks until your body gets used to fasting.

    There is no reason why you should feel giddy or otherwise on a fast day.
    The important thing to remember on fast days is that we get around 80% of the water we need from our food so it is important to endure that you drink enough.

    Ok, many thanks, it is evening times that I run, if I were to have something light just beforehand to see me through the session, would you recommend a sugar, carb or protein boost. Sue.

    I used to swim several times a week, up to 1.5km / swim or around 50 minutes for me. I personally find that swimming is the hargest of the workouts. Next I would put running (not jogging), for example at the time I was running about 6km in 30 minutes which is just okay. I find weight lifting to be rather easy workouts, but it does build more visible muscles. If I do HIIT really hard, say 8 to 10 intervals then it can approach swimming. Frankly the way I see most people work out, I tend to think why even bother with it? I tend to push myself.

    Swimming is pretty much the whole body so that is why I think it can be useful to eat after swimming. Eat slowly and enjoy it because your body can use the food well. I don’t believe in carb loading, unless maybe you are going to run or swim for hours, then maybe it might make a difference. For sprinting a lot, probably carbs help but most of us don’t push that hard to really make a large difference.

    When I did my longer fasts, 7 days being the longest I did workout most days. A couple upper body workouts and some aerobic running workouts. I really didn’t notice any problems. I think the body can pretty easily handle a week without food, at least for most of us. That being said I would probably avoid swimming in a multi-day fast. That is because you lose a lot of body heat, work most of the muscles and really push the heart and lungs while swimming hard. It can border on the extreme and put a lot of stress on the body.

    Unless a person is underweight, there is always plenty of fuel available for a reasonable workout. Granted if you are going to swim 5k or something extreme like that, then it is probably a good idea to eat first. Normally I don’t think it is necessary or even helpful with swimming. Swimming is much more about endurance and being able to maintain good form even when the body is tried. I find that when I’m fasted my endurance is much higher, I typically don’t have the second wind issue that I used to hit when I was running cross country. That was when I was in high school and at that point in my life, 4000 kcal would have been a light day.

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