The last couple of weeks I’ve had the pleasure to work out with Oakhurst’s boot camp-queen, Suzy Peek. Her classes are an intense and sweaty affair that raises the heart rate and gets your endorphins flowing — I always leave these workouts with wobbly legs and a smile on my face.
However, the last workout I attended, I broke the cardinal rule of exercise by working out on an empty stomach. I hit the wall before we were halfway through, seeing stars and feeling like I needed a nap!
I hobbled away at the end of the hour, grabbed some food and, once my blood sugar rose above empty, I remembered the lesson I would pound into my own clients: if you’re going to work it, you have to fuel it! If you are a morning exerciser, unless you eat a couple of pieces of pizza right before your head hits the pillow, you need to put some fuel in your system before expecting optimal performance.
We burn approximately 80% of our carbohydrate stores overnight during sleep and without refueling the tank you limit the amount of energy you have for a workout.
There is a nasty little rumor going around leading people to believe that if you want to burn fat during a workout, you should perform on an empty stomach. NO! Don’t do this, don’t believe this – it’s not true!
Your body is very good at burning whatever it can get its metabolic hands on and if you do not have the glucose easily available you will deplete your carbohydrate reserves, as well as burn protein and fat.
The only thing your body can use for ongoing energy is glucose, aka carbohydrates, and while protein and fat can be converted to this usable energy source, this conversion takes time and any kind of intense exercise requires immediate energy.
The gist of this is no carbs, less energy.
This combo provides immediate as well as long-term energy. A slice of whole wheat toast with some almond butter is one of my standards but some energy bars and smoothies may be good options (although beware of the amount of sugar in these options!).
If you struggle to make it through hard morning workouts, try consuming some carbs on your way to class.
Virginia Eaton is the co-owner of fitness and longevity center Class: The Body Pastiche