If you're like most people I see at the gym, you are eating a banana or some form of sugary energy bar as your pre-workout snack. I used to be one of those people. I remember typing in to Google "What's the best thing to eat before and after a workout?"
I believed I was doing the right thing by fueling up with carbohydrates before a tough workout. I was told carbs were the best thing to have before exercising, and that I had to eat them to perform. I had heard not eating carbs before my workout was like not putting fuel in my car and trying to run on empty.
News flash: The human body is not a car, nor does it run like one. Well, with the exception of a hybrid.
Eating carbohydrates before you exercise is actually the biggest mistake you can make if your goal is fat loss.
The theory that you need carbs before exercising is based on old, outdated science that was designed for people training and competing in endurance events. If you are training for a triathlon or playing a 2 hour soccer game, ok have some carbs if that works for you. For the average person trying to workout to get rid of belly fat, it's actually making fat loss way harder than it should be.
Carbs work like this: If they are the last thing in your body, they are the first thing out.
If there are free carbohydrates available in your body, your body will use them instead of breaking down stored fat for fuel. The body can use different fuel sources at any given time, like a hybrid vehicle as I mentioned earlier. Just as you can train your body with exercise, you can train your body with nutrition. If you want to burn fat, you have to train your body to utilize stored fat and amino acids for fuel instead of carbohydrates.
Burning carbs is the body's quickest and easiest fuel source so the body will default to burning carbs if it can. Often when we fuel our workout on carbs, we'll feel like we hit a wall once our blood sugar levels drop. If you've ever felt faint and found yourself reaching for something sweet to keep you going then you know what I mean. I remember being in the middle of the second set of a volleyball game hoping someone would call time out so I could scarf down a granola bar before having to spike another ball.
I wasn't aware at the time, but now I know the body can actually create its own glucose from amino acids and fatty acids given the right conditions. This conversion requires 20+ more metabolic steps compared to burning glucose from food, so the body will choose to burn free glucose first if it's available. If you avoid consuming glucose before your workout, it will shift your metabolism to start burning fat for fuel right away instead.
If you're used to fueling your body on muffins and cereal bars then it will take your body a bit of time to adjust to a lower carbohydrate intake, but once it does you will become a naturally efficient fat burner. Instead of working out so hard and not getting the results you want, you'll be able to workout less and get better results than you have before.
Save the carbohydrates for after your workouts instead. Add them to your post-workout nutrition to replenish muscle glycogen and improve your insulin sensitivity.
Now, I'd love to hear from you. Have you experimented with different pre-workout foods? What have you noticed? Share and let me know!