Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Running on Empty - Do You Fuel Your Body, Like You Fuel Your Car?

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So I am going to let you in on a little secret.  It is one that will help you run better, run faster, and run stronger.  Don't tell too many people though, I need an upper edge on some of these races.  But because I love you all, I will let you in.  Running while eating will make you run better, run faster, and run stronger than ever before!!

Some of you might be thinking, Steph, I can't run before I eat, especially in the morning.  My stomach won't take it, it won't like it, and it will end badly.  You might say you are not hungry, and you are totally fine without food.  And I am here to tell you, that is not the case.  Now, I don't like to preach, but I got to say, eating before running was a tip I learned that I just have to share.  My amazing sports nutritionist Nancy Clark puts it perfectly in her awesome book Sports Nutrition Guidebook 

Just as you put fuel in your car before you take it for a drive, you want to put fuel in your body before you exercise

She goes on, "this pre-exercise snack or meal will help energize your workout and serves four main functions:"

1) prevents hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and thus wards off symptoms like light-headedness, needless fatigue, blurred vision, and indecisiveness (all things you DON'T want during your run or workout);
2) it helps settle your stomach, absorb some of the gastric juices and ward off hunger (yup you have me right, it will SETTLE not upset your stomach);
3) it fuels your muscles  with both carbohydrates that you eat far enough in advance to get stored as glycogen and carbohydrate that you eat within an hour of exercise which enters the bloodstream and feeds your brain; and
4) gives peace of mind knowing you are fueled!

Yet, people still exercise on empty as Nancy likes to put because they think that it enhances fat burning.  She explains that this is true but that assuming that burning more body fat will = losing more body fat is FALSE.  To lose body fat, you need a calorie deficit (a whole separate can of worms!).  Also you may not eat before because you are worried about upset tummies, diarrhea, and bad performance.  Nancy explains eating the wrong foods can cause issues but going undernourished can result in poor performance!!

Ultimately, to do your best you NEED to fuel before exercising, especially those of you who work out in the morning like me.

If you are interested in further hearing what Nancy has to say about this, you should absolutely check out her book!!!  It is crazy amazing and the book and Nancy has made a HUGE difference in my life.  In her book, she goes on to explain exactly how you can learn to eat before working out.  It involves experimenting and training your body to get used to eating before running.  This is not always easy and takes time and patience, and sometimes ubber tummy failures.  But in the end, you will win out!  Believe me!

Case and point, this morning I had five miles.  I was not hungry at the beautiful hour at 4:45 and my tummy was not feeling it.  I needed to get going and did not want to eat and then wait for some time, which probably would have helped my stomach in this case.  I debated for a moment, thought what Nancy would tell me and grabbed half of a large banana and moments later jumped on my treadmill and brought some shotbloks as well, just in case.  I figured that would be enough for a 5 miler.  Did my stomach feel ok? Yup.  Did my energy feel ok? Yup.  Afterwards did I feel a bit dizzy? Yup.  OOOPSS, Steph, are you practicing what you preach?  Yes, I am!  I am trying, I am learning.  Each day, Nancy might say, live and learn - what went right, what went wrong?  Today, I tried to listen to my body before the run and after my body told me I got it wrong. I needed more! I needed a whole banana or a banana and something else.  So next time I know!  Next time body, you've got it!

So there you have it, just a bit of the importance of eating before exercising!  There is so much more to learn and I am not an expert and just giving you a view of what I have learned.  I have to say, go out and get Nancy's book if you are interested.  Best thing I ever did!

Meanwhile, do you fuel before you workout? Why or why not? What do you like to eat before working out - I like bananas, granola bars, PB, or English Muffins - YUM!

 Bananas or Pinkberry -seriously which one would you choose to fuel before running?!? hehe I love me some Pinkberry!

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