When I wake up in the morning for a longer run (>4 miles), I eat. When I teach an early morning spin class, I eat. When I do my workout (run, spin, elliptical, yoga sculpt, zumba) after work, I eat. However, when I do a short morning workout (30-50 minutes), I do not eat.
I, like most of you, know my body well enough to know whether I should eat before a workout or shouldn’t. In college, I had a few friends that could not eat within an hour of working out because they would get sick (or so they claimed). And then, I had the other friends, who would be chowing down on practically a full meal right before taking one of my spin classes.
So the question is, should you eat before you work out?
According to this story by MSNBC, in order to burn more fat, you shouldn’t eat before a workout. The story is based on research by a group of Europeans who found that cyclists who did not eat before a workout burned more fat than those who did eat. This 2008 study showed that muscles were able to burn up the stores of fat in the body, and better absorb glucose, which is great for diabetics.
But this is counter-intuitive to most other health professional recommendations (I know that I recommend my participants to eat a small, healthy snack prior to working out). Experts at the Mayo Clinic and ESPN Training Room and even in Fitness for Dummies all recommend fueling up with something healthy prior to working out. They recommend things such fruit, protein/energy bars, healthy nuts (aka almonds), or peanut butter and crackers to give your body the energy it needs to work at optimal levels. Without eating, they claim that you are doing damage to your body – wearing it down – and increasing your risk of fainting or developing other health conditions due to low blood sugar. Also, your performance will be negatively impacted.
This is quite the fitting debate. Do you eat before a workout? Depending on your school of thought, your stomach might already be growling for food as you think about the workout you have planned for tonight.