I always recommend clients eat before a workout, especially in the early morning – but I don’t always comply. As a result, I’ve experienced the negative side effects – dizziness, slight nausea, waning energy…not optimal if you want workout results.
If you’ve bought into the misconception that exercising on an empty stomach will help you burn more fat, get off that train. A meta analysis (meaning researchers looked at multiple studies) on the topic published in Strength and Conditioning Journal found that your body burns about the same amount of fat whether or not you’ve eaten before a workout. What the researchers also discovered was that working out on an empty stomach leads to muscle loss, diminished energy and fewer calories burned.
In a pinch, a banana, half an energy bar….even a sports drink can work – but they aren’t ideal. They can spike your blood sugar and not leave you with lasting energy if you’re going for an hour or longer. If you’re headed to an interval-style workout that includes cardio and weights – you’ll want some protein along with those carbs, but not fatty protein that is hard to digest. A conundrum, for sure. After your workout, you also need a high-quality source of protein along with some carbohydrates to help worked muscles repair, build and re-energize.
The solution? A smoothie. Okay, I know – this is not news. Protein smoothies are everywhere and everyone recommends you drink one – but here’s the difference: you make one with the ideal ratio of 3 to 1 (carbs to protein) and drink half before your workout and half after. Include some healthy fat in that smoothie and you also curb your appetite later in the day. The addition of UCAN, a superstarch, slows the fast release of carbs into your system – leaving you with long lasting energy. The UCAN also keeps you sated – so you aren’t starving during exercise or after (when you’re most likely to inhale the first thing that comes your way.)
- ½ banana
- 1 scoop ucan (plain, preferably)
- 1 scoop protein powder (whey or vegan – 20-25 grams)
- 1 tablespoon coconut butter
- 1 cup frozen fruit (peaches, mangos, berries – you choose)
- Handful of spinach or kale
- 2 cups almond or coconut milk – unsweetened
Blend it all together in a high-powered blender and drink half about 30 to 60 minutes prior to working out, and the second half after. It stays pretty creamy in the fridge, or pack it in an insulted lunch box with an ice pack so you have it right when you leave the gym. The total calorie count is about 500 – so that’s just 250 before and after your workout, a completely reasonable amount. You’ll end up with about 25 grams of protein and 60 to 65 grams of carbs.