Wednesday, June 3, 2015
Pre-workout Eating: Don't do what I did
Because I work professionally as a sports dietitian, I consider myself pretty good at workout fueling. So good that sometimes I forgot to use my head which results in really bad workout fueling. That is exactly what happened this morning. To benefit all of you, I want to share my mistake. I will tell you what happened first and then explain why it happened along with what I should have done differently...the same process I use with my clients.
Wednesday morning is my spin class morning. Spin is at 8:15am. My kids are generally up early (6am-ish). Typically my husband is up with my daughter at 6am, I get up to feed my son around 6:30am and the morning progresses from there. This morning was different in that I got up with my daughter at 6am and my son slept in, which meant I woke him up at around 7am. I ate breakfast with my daughter at 6:15am before tending to my son. I left the house around 7:45am for class.
Spin class today was a hill workout (my favorite...really). The workout started and my legs were feeling good. We did two steep hill climbs pretty quickly. I was feeling pretty smug about the fact that the workout was going awesome. I was barely winded, keeping a high cadence and pushing at top effort. Mentally I was congratulating myself on how well I have been training and that surely this workout showed that my hard work was paying off. And then 8:45am rolled around. Why do I know what time it was? Because I wanted off the bike that badly.
It seemed like one minute I felt great and the next minute I was so hungry I would have eaten a dozen donuts had someone served them to me on the bike. I cannot remember the last time I actually got hungry during a workout. However, this hunger was so intense that it affected my ability to be at 100% for the remainder of the workout. After 8:45am, all I could think about was what food sounded good and where I could get it from. In short, the last 15 minutes of the workout were crap. When I got off the bike, I was actually contemplating walking straight to my car and driving back home to eat something instead of showering, getting ready and going to the office (I went to the office).
When I got to the office, I proceeded to eat the majority of my snacks intended for the rest of the DAY (crackers & cheese like normal + a big bag of carrots and celery sticks and an apple). I drank a ton of water and then finally felt my "I will eat anything" desire go away.
Why it happened
This morning, as mentioned above, I ate breakfast at 6:15am...two hours before my workout started. Normally, however, I end up eating breakfast either right before I leave home at 7:15am or in the car on the way to spin class because I don't have time before that with all the kid stuff. That extra hour of time between breakfast and my workout is what killed me. My body just didn't have enough fuel left to get me through the hard workout I was asking it to do during spin. My muscle glycogen was used up. Since the brain runs primarily on carbs, that is what made me go out of my mind thinking about food and wanting anything I could get my hands on. The brain wanted food and NOW. The physiologically drive for food is a real thing and can be incredibly strong.
What I should have done
Could I have eaten two hours pre-workout and had enough fuel to sustain my entire workout? Yes. However, I should have increased the volume from my typical breakfast since I was adding more time before my workout. My typical breakfast of bran flakes, raisins and peanut butter with skim milk would have worked just fine if I had just increased my portion. Another option would have been to add something with my typical portion - greek yogurt with honey, banana or berries with cottage cheese. A third option would have been to eat a snack in the car on the way there (around 7:45am), such as a banana with a handful of nuts.
I hope this post gives you some insight into your own pre-workout strategies. Use my mistake to prevent your own.