The word in itself means to supply or power. What do you do supply to or power? You fuel your car right? Give it power to drive and run properly. Do you fuel yourself? Your body?
Your body is like a car; like a well-oiled machine. (Well hopefully) What you put into it determines how it will run.
If you let your car’s gas run down or go too long without an oil change what happens? First, your car will let you know it’s not getting what it needs. The gas light will come on when it’s almost out of gas. It will notify you if the oil is old and/or affecting the engine or the running of the car. If you continue driving on a car deprived of it’s proper fuel eventually it runs only on fumes and then after too long… it will stop running entirely.
On the other hand, what happens if you fill your car with great oil, get the oil and filter changed regularly, keep your car full of gas… How does it run?
If you haven’t already caught my drift, much like your car, your body runs based on what you put into it… Or what you don’t.
I’ve compared in the past how my crossfit workouts and lifting sessions pan out when I go dehydrated (not on purpose), on an empty stomach (mostly mornings), or properly fueled… I’ll give you one guess as to which turns the best…
So how do you determine if you are properly fueled or if your body is getting what it needs?
Sometimes this requires a little trial and error to find what works for you and your body. However, there are certain things that work for me and common things you should be aware of.
For starters, let’s talk about your pre-workout…
What do you typically do to fuel your body pre-workout?
I have found for myself that there is a happy medium between eating too soon or too much before an intense workout and not eating at all; which is what I used to do when I started out.
My morning workout advice: Grab a small snack to get your body started.
I know that fasted cardio is a huge trend. And I will be honest, there are still times that I go to a 5am crossfit wod without eating, because come on, waking up before 5am to eat is not in the cards for me haha. BUT the workouts that I do at 5am, without fuel, are significantly more difficult and less productive than my later morning (9am)/afternoon workouts.
In the morning, or as a pre-workout snack if you are working out significantly after a meal or not during appropriate meal times, you want something small, simple, and energy filled. Some people go for a good energy bar. I like some traditional fuel in the way of a banana, yogurt, or possibly some toast.
Another common pre-workout question is to whether to caffeinate or not caffeinate…
I used to be a big pre-workout shake person. But with the amount of chemicals in many of them, I took a bit of a break. Many people turn to coffee as their pre-workout drink of choice. In the mornings this is definitely my go-to as well. The biggest problem with this is that its SUPER dehydrating! So, I will say yes, drink up the coffee! BUT drink a bottle of water with it… This should be a general rule of coffee drinking in the first place. Unfortunately, it commonly isn’t. It is even more important, however, that you follow this rule when drinking coffee pre-workout.
As far as afternoon/night workouts go, there are certain additional things you should keep aware of.
Drink sufficient amounts of water throughout the day. Keeping yourself hydrated all day can prevent dehydration.
EAT! I know many people who skip lunch, barely eat during the day, or snack on crap all day. I mean, feel free to go eat at McDonald’s for lunch and hit a PR and prove me wrong. 😉 Have a good meal but not right before a workout. A full belly and burpees. Yeah, that doesn’t end well. Trust me.
For myself, my general rule of thumb is that I eat lunch 2 hours before a crossfit workout and just have some small fuel if need be.
Last but not least, post-workout; another area people tend to (somehow) overlook.
Many people have their favorite protein powders or snacks that they bring to the gym and that’s great. I take my post-workout protein mix immediately after I work out… HOWEVER, I also make sure that I am getting a full meal soon after as well!
If you aren’t going right home or somewhere that you can get food, bring full calories with you. Remaining calorie deficient does nothing good for our bodies. Have you ever gone without eating for too long after an intense workout and felt dizzy or weak? It’s because you let your body get like that car; running on fumes.
Re-fueling is just as important as pre-fueling. Post workout you need to fill your body with nutritious fuel that includes protein and carbs… Yes, carbs. Don’t be afraid of them. A few good suggestions are sweet potatoes, peanut butter, yogurt, chicken breast, etc.
Know your workouts well enough that you know how your body is going to feel afterwards and proceed properly.
The biggest takeaways should be
1. HYDRATE! Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Drink plenty of water pre-workout, post-workout, and throughout the day.
2. Eat proper meals. Avoid poor eating and snacking by planning and knowing that you have/can get real foods and meals throughout the day.
Fueling your body can make all the difference when it comes to great workouts and poor workouts. Stay alert as to how you feel during certain days and what you had to eat/drink before and after your workout that day. Begin to notice trends for your own body. Adjust your intake properly and you will see a huge improvement!